Liu sets backstroke world record to win Asian Games gold

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 21, 2018 09:01 PM
Liu sets backstroke world record to win Asian Games gold
China's Liu Xiang celebrates after winning the women's 50m backstroke final during the swimming competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

By JOHN PYE ,  AP Sports Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Liu Xiang broke a backstroke world record that had stood for nine years to win her first gold medal at the Asian Games.

That's a decent achievement considering it's her secondary stroke.

The 21-year-old Chinese swimmer won Tuesday's women's 50-meter backstroke final in 26.98 seconds, beating teammate Fu Yuanhui and Natsumi Sakai of Japan.

"My main focus is actually the 50-meter freestyle," Liu said through a translator. "I didn't expect to break the world record at all.

"Because the focus is on freestyle, I didn't have any pressure. I could concentrate on my own performance."

Liu said she still had other events so wouldn't celebrate for a while.

"This gold medal and world record will give me more confidence when competing in the freestyle," she said.

Liu has become the first woman to swim under 27 seconds in the event, breaking the previous world mark of 27.06 set by Chinese swimmer Zhao Jing at the 2009 world championships in Rome. That record was set before FINA, swimming's governing body, banned the rubberized swimsuits.

Liu was a bronze medalist in the backstroke at the 2015 world championships and had a previous best time of 27.40.

Defending champion Fu took silver in 27.68. Sakai, the 2017 world junior champion, earned bronze in 27.91.

The record tumbled just after a tight finish in a basketball preliminary game between China and Philippines that featured three NBA players.

The addition of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson to the lineup wasn't quite enough for the Philippines, who lost 82-80.

The U.S.-born Clarkson received last-minute permission from the NBA to play in the Asian Games, but missed the Philippines' opening victory over Kazakhstan.

He had 28 points and helped his team take the lead in the fourth quarter before committing a foul that allowed China to take a two-point lead with seconds on the clock. Paul Dalistan missed a 3-point attempt with about five seconds left that could have won it for the Philippines.

Zhou Qi, a 2.17-meter (7-foot-1) Houston Rockets center, had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead a China squad that also contains Dallas Mavericks small forward Ding Yanyuhang.

There were 28 gold medals on offer Tuesday, and 16-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary was right on target for one of them in Palembang, which is co-hosting the games with Jakarta.

Chaudhary, who only took up the sport competitively three years ago and set a junior world record this year, won the 10-meter air pistol with a games record of 240.7. Japan collected silver via 42-year-old former world champion Tomoyuki Matsuda, who was a point behind.

Abhishek Verma joined India teammate Chaudhary on the podium after finishing in third place.

Chaudhary showed composure against a seasoned field that also included Jin Jin-goh of South Korea, who won Olympic gold medals in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro and is a multiple world champion.

With so much experience in the field, Chaudhary kept his expectations in check, telling Press Trust of India he "did not feel any pressure."

Praise from home flowed in quickly after Chaudhary picked up India's third gold medal of the games, from high-profile athletes and public figures. In a post on an official Twitter account, India's President Ram Nath Kovind posted: "Our shooters are bang on target! We are proud of you!"

Lebanon won the first gold medal in mixed team trap, with Alain Moussa and Ray Bassil combining to win the final with 43 points, one clear of Taiwan.

In other early finals, Macau picked up its first medal — a gold — when Huang Junhua held off Quoc Khanh Pham of Vietnam in the wushu discipline of Nangun.

The combined Koreas women's basketball team reached the quarterfinals with an 85-57 win over Kazakhstan.

North Korean center Ro Suk Yong led the scoring with 19 points to help the combined Koreas team place second in the group.

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