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Qin, Zhang star as China send Olympic warning in Asian Games blitz


Gold medallist China’s Qin Haiyang with silver medallist China’s Sun Jiajun on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 50m Breaststroke.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

World champion Qin Haiyang completed the breaststroke treble Friday and Zhang Yufei claimed a sixth gold as China’s swimmers sent a final warning shot from the Asian Games ahead of the Paris Olympics.

Their victories were among four titles the hosts snapped up on the final day of swimming in Hangzhou, where they easily topped the table with 28 golds in the pool.

While no world records tumbled across the six-day event, multiple Games and Asian bests were set, some of them eye-popping.

Along with Qin and Zhang, Pan Zhanle became only the fifth man ever below 47 seconds in the 100m freestyle while China went close to smashing two relay world records.

Wang Shun swum the seventh fastest 200m medley in history.

Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey meanwhile reinforced her threat to Australia’s top freestylers with lightning-fast times in the 100 and 200m.

At the last Asian Games, in Indonesia five years ago, Japan tied China at the top on 19 golds. But it was a very different story in Hangzhou.

Japan won just five golds in the pool and South Korea bagged six.

China’s Qin was the dominant male swimmer, matching his unprecedented world championship exploits by claiming the 50-100-200m breaststroke hat-trick.

Having already won the 100m and 200m, he blitzed through the 50m in a searing 26.35sec, just outside the 26.20 that won him the world title at Fukuoka in July.

It followed his 26.25 in the heats — the 10th quickest ever with only British great Adam Peaty, who owns eight of the top 10 and the 25.95 world record, surpassing it.

“The results are slightly short of what I wanted, but it’s still something I can accept,” he said. “This was a chance for me to try some new things and prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

Qin also won two relay gold and a 200m medley silver.

Returning to peak 

Olympic and world champion Zhang Yufei was the competition’s top gold medallist, winning the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly, 50m freestyle and two relays.

The world 50m fly silver medallist behind Swedish world-record holder Sarah Sjostrom, she flew to the wall in a Games-record 25.10, leaving teammate Yu Yiting and Japan’s defending champion Rikako Ikee in her wake.

Zhang achieved the feat despite feeling unwell.

“From last night to this morning I practically lost my voice,” she said, with Qin leading the praise for his teammate.

“Despite being ill it’s still no problem for her to take the gold. You take your hat off to her, that she is so strong mentally,” he said.

Her hopes of a seventh gold in the 4x100m medley relay were dashed after China was disqualified in the heats, leaving Japan to win gold.

China’s Li Bingjie also had an outstanding Games, with five golds and a silver.

The world silver medallist behind American great Katie Ledecky, she came home in 8:20.01 to clinch the 800m freestyle to go with her 400 and 1500m crowns.

China’s Xu Jiayu also excelled, defending his 200m backstroke title in 1:55.37, adding to 50 and 100m gold as he roared back to form.

“I crave success in the individual events even more now,” said Xu.

“Our (China) results show that we are returning to our peak. I believe this is a sign that there may be better things and better results to come.”

Olympic silver medallist Tomoru Honda secured Japan’s only gold of the night in the 200m butterfly, storming to a new Games-record 1:53.15, the third fastest of 2023.

South Korea’s Kim Woo-min also temporarily snapped the Chinese stranglehold, touching in 3:44.36 to add the 400m freestyle to his 800m title.

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