Dubai: China lived up to expectations by dominating the opening day of the swimming competition at the 9th Asian Swimming Championships that opened at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Sports Complex here on Thursday.
The Chinese contingent made a strong start to the four-discipline championships — with synchronised swimming, diving and water polo also taking place — with gold medals in two of the three early swimming races held after the opening ceremony.
Li Xianyan and Zhao Jing took gold in the men’s 50m and women’s 50m backstroke events respectively to open their country’s challenge during the early part of the day’s competition.
China’s Li, who had the second best time in the morning, improved to 28.10sec to take gold ahead of Japan’s Yoshiki Yamanaka (28.63) and Hong Kong’s Wong Chun-yan (28.67). But there was something to cheer for UAE fans as Mubarak Al Besher came in sixth with a time of 29.29s after posting a qualifying time of 29.45s in the morning.
Denying China a perfect start was South Korea’s Chang Gyu-cheol, champion at the Youth Olympic Games, as he won the men’s 100m butterfly in a time of 52.73s, leaving Chen Yin (53.14) in second and Japan’s Takeshi Kawamoto (53.17) third.
In the women’s 50m backstroke, Zhao and Fu Yuanhui led a one-two for China, while Singapore’s Tao Li took the bronze.
Earlier, the 11-day event was opened to the beat of drums in a brief yet extravagant ceremony presided over by Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in the presence of Mattar Al Tayer, Vice Chairman of Dubai Sports Council (DSC); Shaikh Khalid Mohammad Al Badr Al Sabah, President of the Asian Swimming Federation (AASF); Ahmad Al Falasi, President of the UAE Swimming Association (UAE SA); and Dr. Ahmad Saad Al Sharif, General Secretary of the DSC, among others.
“It’s such an honour for us to be making history in hosting these championships in this format for the first time ever all under one roof at such a fantastic facility,” Al Sharif said in his welcome remarks.
During the morning session, Chinese swimmers finished quickest in six of the eight events, with double Olympic champion Sun Yang leading the way as quickest qualifier in the 200m freestyle in 1:51.29.
Only Japan, who have 14 of the 20 Asian records in the men’s section to their name, managed to interrupt a Chinese clean sweep, with Takeshi Kawamoto finishing fastest in the 100m butterfly in 54.23s and the men’s 4x100m relay team finishing quickest in the heats.
The UAE’s 4x100m squad consisting of Al Besher, Mohammad Al Ghafri, Obaid Al Jasmi and Mohammad Shafee also made it to the final in a marked improvement for home-grown swimmers in this competition.