China produce new sensation

Beijing, August 14:

At least swimmers Kosuke Kitajima and Liu Zige accomplished something while getting wet on Thursday at the Beijing Olympics.

Heavy rain delayed the start of Roger Federer’s quarter-final match against James Blake, and the Swiss star may have wished it hadn’t gone ahead at all — he lost 6-4, 7-6 (2).

The top-seeded Federer is battling a yearlong slump that has left him stalled at 12 Grand Slam titles, two shy of Pete Sampras’ record.

The rain also washed out rowing, canoeing and kayak whitewater events and affected baseball and softball, with games suspended or called off by thunderstorms and lightning. Only soggy beach volleyballers played through the heavy showers. There was a different weather problem in Qingdao, site of the sailing competition. For the second day in a row, lack of wind forced all racing to be called off.

Inside the Water Cube, Kitajima became the first man to sweep the breaststroke events for the second straight Olympics by winning the 200m in 2 minutes, 7.64 seconds. The host country celebrated when Liu won the 200m butterfly for China’s first swimming gold of the Games, setting the world mark of 2:04.18. Jiao Liuyang also went under the previous best to give the teammates a 1-2 finish.

Australia set the 18th world swimming record in Beijing in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay, obliterating the previous mark by nearly six seconds to upset the Americans.

Michael Phelps took care of a routine matter, advancing to the final of the 200m individual medley. With five golds and five world records, Phelps merely had to get by the semi-finals of the 200 IM. He won his heat and moved on to Friday with the second-best qualifying time, 1:57.70. He needs three more golds in Beijing to surpass Mark Spitz’s record total of eight at Munich in 1972.

China continued their domination of gymnastics. After winning both men’s and women’s team events, Yang Wei took the men’s all-around title that had eluded him for eight years.

Yang, the two-time defending world champion, finished with 94.575 points, nearly three points ahead of Japan’s Kohei Uchimura. Yang had finished second to Alexei Nemov in 2000 and fell apart in Athens.

Du Li of China rebounded from an earlier defeat, winning gold in the women’s 50m, three-position rifle event. Chiara Cainero of Italy won gold in women’s skeet shooting, beating Kim Rhode of the US and Christine Brinker of Germany in a shoot-off.

Andrea Minguzzi of Italy was the surprise winner of the Greco-Roman wrestling 84-kilogram gold medal, defeating Zoltan Fodor of Hungary. Minguzzi, who upset 2004 gold medallist Aleksey Mishin of Russia in the quarter-finals, was 45th in last year’s world championships and has never finished higher than 18th in four world championship appearances.

Mijain Lopez of Cuba, the dominant big man in Greco-Roman wrestling since the Athens Olympics, beat rival Khasan Baroev of Russia to win the 120-kg gold medal. Another Russian, Aslanbek Khushtov, took gold in the 96-kg class.

Ukraine’s fencers won the team gold medal in women’s saber and China’s Zhang Juan Juan defeated South Korea’s Park Sung-hyun 110-109 to win the gold medal in women’s individual archery.

Yang Xiuli of China flipped her first four judo opponents then won in an overtime decision over Yalennis Castillo of Cuba to take the gold in the women’s 78-kg division.

Mongolia’s Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the men’s 100-kg class, defeating Kazakhstan’s Askhat Zhitkeyev. It was the first gold medal ever in the Olympics for the sparsely populated and landlocked country in east-central Asia.

Yao Ming scored 30 points to lead China to a 85-68 win over Angola, giving the Olympic hosts their first victory in the tournament.