BEIJING, Jan. 5-6 - The Asian portion got underway just after the New Year with the fourth stage in the Chinese capital. It was the first of four competitions in the Asia/Oceania zone. Sixteen countries took part with over 300 swimmers competing, including a large Chinese contingent of 28 national team members and over 200 provincial swimmers from 17 different teams.
It was a great competition for China, who finished the meet with 23 golds. Germany was a far-off second with 3. Indeed, other visiting swimmers were back into heavy training or were there to experience the particularly difficult rhythm of long travel, short acclimatization. Sweden, Australia, and Canada sent mostly inexperienced rookies. Germany, Great Britain, and the United States sent a mixture of veterans and newcomers to international competition.
China's women swimmers were dominant and won all but two events. The only non-Chinese event winners among the women were Canada's Kelly Stefanyshyn, who was first in the 200 backstroke in 2:10.01, and Britain's Sue Rolph, who took the 100 IM in 1:03.45. The Chinese men won eight events.
And in the push for exposure for the event, China appeared to have delivered. There are eight television channels in China, with Channel 5 being devoted exclusively to sport. On both nights, the finals were televised live, with an estimated potential audience of 150 million. Some 90 people, including meet officials and members of the organizing committee, were involved in running the meet. As usual, the trip to Beijing offered some welcome cultural relief, with many visiting the Great Wall or the Forbidden City of the old emperors.
In the very first women's event, the 200 freestyle, the crowd witnessed a Chinese sweep of the medals, with Qian Caini finishing in 1:58.29, followed by Yang Lina in 1:59.31 and Yang Yu in 2:01.17.
Germany's Jorg Hoffmann completed the distance double winning the 400 free in 3:47.06 on the first night, followed by the 1500 free in 14:59.90 the next day. Ironically, his teammate Thomas Lohfink, who finished second in both, has enough points to lead the distance category with 42 to Hoffmann's 40.
Jens Kruppa (GER) took the 200 breaststroke in 2:13.06, adding seconds in the 50 and 100 breaststroke to lead the breaststroke category with 37 points.
Lenny Krayzelburg (USA) won the 100 back on the first day in 53.49 and took the 200 back with 1:55.39. Stev Theloke (GER) was second in both events but leads in the points race with 34 to Krayzelburg's 30. David Carter (AUS) won the men's 100 freestyle with 49.88.
Chinese swimmers started off the second evening with consecutive wins in the first five events. Denis Silantiev (UKR) decided to interrupt that streak, however, with an exceptional performance in the 100 butterfly. He clocked 51.79 for the best performance of the meet. Silantiev won the 200 butterfly on the first day in 1:56.51 and was challenging for the lead in the points race for the fly category with 54. Geoff Huegill (AUS), the leader with 57, did not swim in Beijing.
After a spirited battle, Deng Qingxon (CHN) touched ahead in the 200 free in 1:48.88 over a fast finishing Guillermo Mediano (ESP), who swam 1:49.09.
Xie Xufeng (CHN) won the 200-400 IM with 1:59.74 and 4:14.32, setting a new Chinese record in the 200 IM.
In women's competition, Chao Na (CHN) was a double winner in the sprint free with 25.59 in the 50 and 55.31 in the 100. Chen Hua (CHN) won the distance free double with a 4:07.04 in the 400 and 8:28.58 in the 800. Claudia Poll (CRC) was second in both but closed the gap somewhat in the category points battle with 43. Rachel Harris (AUS), who has 50 points, did not compete here.
Surprising Kelly Stefanyshyn moved into the lead in the backstroke category with 41 after winning the 200 back and placing second in the 100. Lu Donghua (CHN) won the 50 and 100 back with 28.79 and 1:01.15 respectively.
China's Hu Ning won the 200 butterfly with 2:11.22, and with a third in the100 butterfly on the first night, had a stranglehold on the points race in the butterfly category with 57. She has competed in all four World Cups to date. Hu, a 15-year-old from Dalian in Liaoning province, has been among the top three flyers in China for the past two years. Plans for competing in European World Cups have not been finalized, according to her coach Zhan Fugang. Participation in the FINA Short Course World Championships next April is not yet definite. At last year's world cup in Beijing, she won this event in 2:09.12.