OSAKA, Japan. May 24. IT was Australia’s night in the pool at the East Asian Games in Osaka tonight, with three stirring victories and an Australian record to the Campbelltown kid Jimmy Piper in the men’s 200 meter breaststroke. But it wasn't an all-Australia show, as China's Luo Xuejuan continued to improve, setting a Chinese record in the women's 100 meter breaststroke.
Sydney teenager Jim Piper clocked 2:12.74, edging Japanese teen Kosuke Kitajima (2:13.20) and eclipsing the Australian record. It was the third fastest time in the world this year behind Ed Moses (USA) 2.10.40 and Brendan Hansen (USA) 2:12.67. Piper's time was 14-hundredths of a second faster than Regan Harrison’s former mark, achieved when he finished fourth at last year’s Sydney Olympics.
Luo, 16, clocked 1:07.42 in the women's 100m breast, leading her teammate Qi Hui in a one-two Chinese sweep. Qi, also 16, who last month set a world record
in the 200m breast (2:22.99) was second in 1:08.48.
Luo's time is the fastest in the world this year, and makes her the fourth fastest woman in history behind world record-holder Penny Heyns (1:06.52) of South Africa, the USA's Megan Quann (1:07.05) and Japan's Masami Tanaka (1:07.27), who is taking the year off.
Australian schoolgirl Lara Davenport led the way with a triumphant performance to defeat local hero, Japanese Olympic finalist Junko Onishi and China’s top two in the women’s 100m butterfly final. Davenport clocked 1:00.64 to Onishi's 1:00.75.
But the Aussies, competing here in Osaka as visitors, were not done yet. The men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team, swimming in lane six, led from the outset to defeat Japan with an outstanding time of 3:22.01 – which would have earned them eighth in last year’s Olympic Games.
It also gave team co-captain Rob Van der Zant his third win in the first four days of a Games which has meant so much to a team of Dolphins, many of them on their first major overseas trip.
The relay saw Stephen Goudie lead off in 50.82, followed by 100m champion Van Der Zant (50.16), Leigh McBean (50.46) and Nic Williams (50.57).
But it was Piper, with the Boxing Kangaroo tattooed proudly on his chest, who really captured the imagination of the Australian team and the Japanese and international press who have gathered here in Osaka to cover these Games.
Piper miss the Australian team for this year’s World Championships by just 0.09 secs – behind Simon Cowley -and came to Japan treating the East Asian Games as his World Championship.
"Sure I was disappointed at missing the World Championships but Osaka gave me a second chance to prove myself, a second chance to show everyone I could improve my best time.
"I knew I could swim faster than my best and I also knew that if I improved that time by half a second then I would establish a new Australian record.
"It was a wonderful feeling to touch the wall, look around and see that time – that’s what I came here for."
Piper’s coach at Campbelltown, south of Sydney, Alan Thompson was on the phone to his charge just minutes after the victory.
"I’m very proud of that boy. He’s dedicated himself day-in-day-out for the past five years and no one deserves this moment more than Jimmy Piper. He’s a good boy," said Thompson, a coach on this year’s World Championship team.
Piper has now put the pressure right on Australian champion Harrison and Cowley, who know they both have to swim faster than 2:12.74 to secure their places on the Dolphins team for the Goodwill Games in Brisbane in August.
Piper has just one more race in Osaka before flying home – the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Saturday, when Australia again goes head-to-head with arch rivals and Games hosts Japan.
It was also a wonderful night for Davenport, who went into tonight’s final with the fastest qualifying time and came out with the most important win of her short career.
"I was determined to come home a fast as I could in the second lap, that’s the best part of my race and I wasn’t concerned at all about who was in the race," said Davenport, who is coached by 1956 Olympian Gary Winram at Galston.
But she certainly lowered some big names, including Onishi, who beat Susie O’Neill at last year’s Sydney Olympics and the top two Chinese butterflyers, Ruan Yi and Li Jin – with all three swimmers heading off to the World Championships in Fukuoka in July where they will race Australia’s fastest two butterflyers in Petria Thomas and Julia Ham.
Australia has now claimed five victories, four second places and two third placings in four days at these Games, with two more days of competition remaining.
Korea's Kyu-Chul Han was the surprise winner in the men's 400m free, touching in 3:53.55 to defeat Australia's stephen Penfold, often described as Australia's next distance giant. China's Liu Yu was third in 3:55.41 with Aussie Andrew Affleck fourth in 3:57.32.
Jarrad Church from Western Australia also clocked a personal best time of 2:19.19 to finish sixth in Piper’s 200m breaststroke race while Jordana Webb was seventh in the women’s 100m butterfly (1:02.84).
There were also two promising performances from breaststroke girls Sarah Katsoulis (1:11.73) and Brooke Martin (1:11.94) who were fourth and fifth respectively behind China’s Luo Xuejuan (1:07.42) in the women’s 100m breaststroke final.
Katsoulis came from behind to edge her younger team mate over the closing stages, with Martin swimming a personal best time.
3rd EAST ASIAN GAMES
May, 21-26, 2001
50 meter pool
DAY FOUR RESULTS: May 24
1. Kyu-Chul Han KOR 3:53.55
2. Stephen Penfold AUS 3:54.65
2. Liu Yu CHN 3:55.41
3. Zheng Shibin CHN 3:59.09
4. Andrew Affleck AUS 3:57.32
1. Jim Piper AUS 2:12.74 Aust.rec.
1. Kosuke Kitajima JPN 2:13.20
2. Yoshiaki Okita JPN 2:17.45
3. Cheng Hao CHN 2:18.67
6. Jarrad Church AUS 2:19.19
4x100m freestyle relay
1. AUSTRALIA 3:22.01
Stephen Goudie 50.82
Rob Van Der Zant 50.16
Leigh McBean 50.46
Nic Williams 50.57
1. JAPAN 3:23.21
2. KOREA 3:25.81
3. CHINA 3:25.91
1. Lara Davenport AUS 1:00.64 (28.97)
1. Junko Onishi JPN 1:00.75
2. Ruan Yi CHN 1:01.12
3. Li Jin CHN 1:01.60
7. Jordana Webb AUS 1:02.84
1. Luo Xuejuan CHN 1:07.42
2. Qi Hui CHN 1:08.48
3. Junko Isoda JPN 1:09.87
4. Sarah Katsoulis AUS 1:11.73
5. Brooke Martin AUS 1:11.94
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