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Liu breaks world record; Indian teen wins at Asian Games

August 21, 2018
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Women's 50m backstroke gold medalist China's Liu Xiang stands on the podium during the swimming competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — After sinking a world record set in the so-called buoyancy era, Liu Xiang is ready for her main event.

Liu’s record in the women’s 50-meter backstroke seemed to come out of nowhere at the Asian Games on Tuesday, when the 21-year-old Chinese swimmer won the gold medal in 26.98 seconds.

“Because my main focus is on freestyle, I didn’t have any pressure,” Liu said through a translator. “I could concentrate on my own performance.

Liu’s time broke the record of 27.06 set by Chinese swimmer Zhao Jing at the 2009 world championships in Rome. That mark was set before swimming’s international governing body banned the rubberized swimsuits that contributed to a rush of records in the pool.

The 50 freestyle, Liu’s best event, is scheduled for Friday, the last day of the swimming program.

“This gold medal and world record will give me more confidence in the freestyle,” she said.

China holds an 11-10 edge in the swimming gold medal standings over regional rival Japan after three days of competition.

Three-time Olympic champion Sun Yang added the 400 title to the freestyle golds he has already won in the 200 and the 800. He’s only got the 1,500 left.

Rikako Ikee already has four gold medals in Jakarta, adding the women’s 100 butterfly on day 3.

The swimming record tumbled just after China edged Philippines 82-80 in a basketball preliminary game featuring three NBA players.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson led Philippines with 28 points in his first game of the tournament but it wasn’t quite enough, with Paul Dalistan missing a 3-point attempt with about five seconds left that could have won it.

Zhou Qi, the 2.17-meter (7-foot-1) Houston Rockets center, had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead a China team that also contains Dallas Mavericks small forward Ding Yanyuhang. Chinese basketball great Yao Ming was watching closely from the sidelines.

North Korean center Ro Suk Yong led the scoring with 19 points to help the combined Koreas women’s team to an 85-57 win over Kazakhstan and a spot in the quarterfinals.

There were a series of firsts across the two host cities, with Macau collecting gold at wushu in Jakarta, Hidilyn Diaz securing the first gold for Philippines in women’s weightlifting, Lebanon winning the mixed team trap shooting and 16-year-old Saurabh Chaudhary winning the 10-meter air pistol with a games record of 240.7 in his senior competition debut.

Chaudhary is something of a hot shot now in the India squad, after getting messages of congratulations from celebrity athletes and India’s President Ram Nath Kovind.

Alain Moussa and Ray Bassil combined to win the first mixed team trap event with 43 points, one clear of Taiwan.

“First allow me to salute Lebanon,” Moussa said. “It was an amazing feeling, especially considering how small our country is, as we watched our flag rising. I would like to dedicate this win — with my partner Ray Bassil — to Lebanon.”

China kept piling on the medals across the venues, with Chen Yile winning the women’s all-around title in gymnastics and the women’s water polo team claiming victory.

After 78 finals, China led the medal tally with 30 gold and 60 overall, well clear of Japan with 12 gold and 47 in total and South Korea with eight gold.

Host Indonesia was in fourth spot with five golds, one ahead of Iran and North Korea.

Saeid Rajabi picked up Iran’s fifth when he beat Uzbekistan’s Dmitriy Shokin in the men’s 80-kilogram taekwondo final.

There’ll be 31 gold medals on offer Wednesday, including eight in the pool.

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Raj Mohan Viswanathan contributed from Palembang.

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John Pye is at https://twitter.com/byJohnPye

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