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China’s Qin and Zhang light up Asian Games pool events

China’s Qin Haiyang reacts after winning the final of the men’s 200m breaststroke event at the Asian Games. (AFP pic)

HANGZHOU: World record holder Qin Haiyang barrelled to the Asian Games 200m breaststroke title today as Chinese teammate Zhang Yufei edged Siobhan Haughey in a blockbuster showdown to clinch her fifth gold medal in Hangzhou.

It capped another dominant night in the pool for the hosts, whose five gold medals bolstered their tally to 24 from the 35 up for grabs on day five.

South Korea’s Baek In-chul and Kim Woo-min also got in on the act.

Baek claimed the men’s 50m butterfly gold while Kim was crowned the 800m freestyle champion.

Qin shattered Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook’s historical 200m record at the July world championships on his way to the gold medal with a blistering 2:05.48s.

But despite his home fans roaring him on he couldn’t better it, touching in 2:07.03s – a new Games record and the fourth quickest time this year.

It was more than enough to easily beat teammate Dong Zhihao and Japan’s Ippei Watanabe.

“I was hoping to go under 2:07. I wasn’t far off, but I guess this means I still relaxed a little,” Qin said, adding that he planned to head to Europe next to get ready for the Paris Olympics.

“We need to get used to the time zone and the environment on the European circuit so we are prepared for Paris 2024.”

Qin went on to complete an unprecedented sweep of the breaststroke races in Fukuoka to announce himself as the man to beat at the Olympics next year.

He had already secured the 100m title in Hangzhou, won silver in the 200m medley, and helped steer China close to two relay world records, with the 50m breaststroke event still to come tomrrow.

‘Felt like I was flying’

Hong Kong’s Haughey, one of the world’s top freestylers, clinched the 100m and 200m titles in blistering fashion in the last few days.

However, the 50m is not her favoured event and she succumbed to the electric Zhang.

Like Haughey, Zhang was also chasing a third individual gold after setting scorching times in winning the 100m and 200m fly. She also has two relay titles in her repertoire.

The Chinese superstar previously won the world championships bronze in the 50m free and again displayed her versatility to clock a Games-record 24.26s, ahead of Haughey and China’s Cheng Yujie.

Ye Shiwen, a silver medallist in the 200m medley behind teammate Yu Yiting, touched in 2:23.84s to win the women’s 200m breaststroke final and said, “I don’t think I’ve reached my peak.”

Baek took control of the 50m butterfly, thundering to the wall in a new Games record 23.29s on a rare occasion that China failed to medal.

Instead, silver and bronze went to Singapore’s Teong Tzen Wei and Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Mussin.

“I was in the water yet felt like I was flying,” Baek said after his first major title. “Still, I made some small mistakes. I could have performed better.”

Teammate Kim dug deep to hold off China’s 1500m champion Fei Liwei and clinch the 800m freestyle title in a Games-record 7:46.03, turning the tables on his rival, who beat him over the longer distance.

China have dominated the relays this week, twice going close to world records, and they were unstoppable again.

Pan Zhanle, Hong Jinquan, Chen Juner, and Wang Haoyu powered to a new Asian record of 3:10.88s in the men’s 4x100m freestyle before the women’s 4x200m freestyle team spearheaded by Li Bingjie won their race in 7:49.34s.