Bernard wins first-ever gold for France

14th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Alain Bernard is sprint king while Liu and Australia break records in swimming.

14 August 2008

BEIJING - Host China got a first swim gold at the Beijing Olympics from Liu Zige with a world record 100 metres butterfly performance on Thursday while Alain Bernard gave France its first- ever gold in the showpiece 100m freestyle sprint.

The Australian women's 4x200m relay team smashed the world record to take the gold and Japan's Kosuke Kitajima repeated his breaststroke double from Athens 2004.

American star Michael Phelps had no final to swim the day after becoming the most successful Olympian with 11 golds overall. But he was in the pool to qualify for the 200m medley final.

Liu led a Chinese one-two to thrill the packed Beijing Water Cube in a world record time of 2 minutes 4.18 seconds.

Jiao Liuyang, whose time of 2:04.72 was also better than Jessicah Schipper's record of 2:05.40, which she had set two years ago, won the silver medal. The Australian had to be content with bronze in 2:06.26.

Liu, who won China's seventh gold swimming medal overall, said that she did not feel pressure going into the race.

"I tried to relax and in the race I just swam at my own pace, not caring about the others.

"The night before the race my coach said to me that we will have two Chinese swimmers in the final, so you don't need to force yourself to win gold, you just need to try your best," she said.

In the men's 100m freestyle sprint, Bernard gained some revenge for earlier in the meet having lost the men's 100m freestyle world record to Eamon Sullivan as he beat the Australian to the gold medal in a time of 47.21. Sullivan finished second in 47.32.

American Jason Leazak and Brazilian Cesar Cielo Filho shared bronze in 47.67 while Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband failed in his bid for a third straight gold in the event by finishing fifth.

"This is the greatest day of my life. A dream has come true," said Bernard after the final of an event which saw three world records in the heats and semis. "I may have lost the world record but I am an Olympic champion and that lasts four years."

Kitajima repeated his double from Athens as he won the men's 200m breaststroke event in the Olympic record 2:07.64 minutes. Kitajima won the 100m breaststroke on Monday.

Australian Brenton Rickard won the silver in a time of 2:08.88, while Frenchman Hugues Duboscq was the bronze medal winner, just 0.06 seconds behind Rickard.

Kitajima said the 100m gold boosted his morale.

"I felt different after that. If I didn't win that race I would have been anxious. I was going to improve my time a bit more, but I guess that to win this race is more important," he said.

But the Aussies wrote the latest chapter in astonishing new relay world records.

Stephanie Rice, Bronte Barratt, Kylie Palmer and Linda Mackenzie clocked 7:44.31 minutes, slashing 5.78 seconds off the 7:50.09 a US relay swam last year at the worlds in Melbourne.

China was a popular silver medal winner in 7:45.93, while even the third-placed US team was under the old record time as they won bronze in 7:46.33.

It was the 18th world record set in the Beijing Water Cube at this meet.

Phelps had the second time in the 200m medley semi-finals behind his friend Ryan Lochte, with the difference being the smallest possible of one hundredth with Lochte on 1:57.69 minutes.

There was disappointment for the largely Chinese crowd as medal hopeful Pang Jiaying was disqualified for an early start in the women's 100m freestyle after winning her semi-final.

But Zhu Yingwen (53.84) qualified for the final with the third- fastest time behind American Natalie Coughlin (53.70) and Dutch Marleen Veldhuis (53.81). Australian 100m freestyle world champion Lisbeth Trickett, who won the women's 100m butterfly on Monday, just managed to scrape through with the eighth time.

"I probably would have liked to have gone a bit faster than that. It felt comfortable so hopefully I can be good for tomorrow and bring something else out,"

In the men's 200m backstroke American favourites Lochte and Aaron Peirsol, who are joint world record holders, topped the list of qualifiers for Thursday's final with 1:55.26 and 1:55.40.

American Rebecca Soni and Leisel Jones from Australia led the field into the women's 200m breaststroke with times of 2:22.64 and 2:23.04 respectively.

[dpa / Expatica]

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