(AFP) – Aug 11, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — Asian nations firmly established themselves on the Olympic medal table Monday with Japan's Kosuke Kitajima setting a world record and Abhinav Bindra winning an historic gold for India.
South Korea added to its gold tally in the men's team archery while China had success in diving and weightlifting.
Kitajima, the 100 metres breaststroke king, smashed American Brendan Hansen's world mark to touch in 58.91 seconds and successfully defend his Athens title in the futuristic Water Cube.
It was Japan's second gold of the Games after Masato Uchishiba retained his lightweight title on the judo mats on Sunday.
Bindra had an equally memorable day, clinching India's first ever individual Olympic gold medal by winning the men's 10m Air Rifle shooting title.
Athens champion Zhu Qinan of China took the silver.
While India's success was historic, regional powerhouse China is set to overshadow every other Asian country's achievements here, and it leads the medal standings with nine gold.
South Korea (four gold) and Japan (two gold) traditionally battle for second best in the region.
A rampant China had its best-ever performance in Athens, finishing second overall to the United States with 32 gold, while Japan with 16 came fifth. South Korea's nine golds earned them ninth place.
While the three Asian heavyweights should again take the bulk of the glory, smaller fry like Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and North Korea have already been on the podium here with the prospect of more medals to come.
Kitajima, who let out a piercing yell of triumph, said his victory was a dream come true.
"My performance was perfect and ideal, my time was excellent. It's what I have been hoping for," said the Japanese star, who launches his defence of the 200m title on Tuesday.
"When I saw the screen I could see the time as 59.90 and I thought that was terribly slow, but when I looked again it was 58."
Elsewhere in the pool, China's Zhou Yafei finished just off the podium in a creditable fourth in the women's 100m butterfly final which was won by Australia's Libby Trickett.
Singapore had something to shout about with Tao Li in the same race. The 18-year-old finished fifth after clocking a new Asian record of 57.54 en-route to the final.
In one of the most thrilling shooting finals in Olympic history, businessman Bindra overcame a two-point deficit against Finland's Henri Hakkinen and one point against Zhu after the qualification rounds to take the title.
Bindra finished with a combined tally of 700.5, still shy of Zhu's Olympic record of 702.7 set in Athens.
"It can't get better than this, can it?" said an elated Bindra, a winner of India's highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (sports jewel), in 2001.
"I know India was waiting for this for a long time and so was I. I narrowly missed a medal at Athens so I knew I would be in with a chance if I focussed on the job."
India, winners of eight field hockey gold medals, had never won an individual Olympic title before Bindra's feat.
China added more gold to its glittering haul through world record holder Chen Yanqing in the women's 58kg weightlifting, with North Korea's O Jong Ae O taking bronze.
Zhang Xiangxiang weighed in with the men's 62kg gold medal while Lin Yue and Huo Liang claimed the men's 10m synchronized platform diving crown.
South Korea's invincible archers continued their domination by claiming the men's team gold, with China taking bronze.
The badminton got underway with China's top three women seeds -- Xie Xingfang, Lu Lan, Zhang Ning -- into the quarter-finals along with Indonesia's Maria Kristin Yulianti and India's Saina Nehwal.
On the men's side, Malaysian world number two Lee Chong Wei outclassed Singapore's Ronald Susilo as Indonesia's defending champion Taufik Hidayat crashed out.
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