Swimming: China's relay world record: Swimmers take the plunge in cool pursuit of gold and glory

Click to follow
CHINA'S women broke the 4 x 100 metres freestyle world record in Rome yesterday to bring a triumphant end to a day on which they dethroned the swimming queens, Janet Evans and Krisztina Egerszegi.

In the men's races, there were two golds for Russia as the Olympic champion, Alexander Popov, took the 100m freestyle and Vladimir Selkov won the 200m backstroke.

In the diving, Tan Shuping won the three-metre springboard title as the Chinese, ignoring allegations of drug taking, took their gold-medal tally at the World Championships to 10. Russia, with two golds, are a distant second in the medal standings.

Led off by the newly-crowned world 100m champion, Le Jingyi, and anchored by the Rome double silver medallist, Lu Bin, China clocked 3min 37.91sec to lower the relay record of 3:39.46 set by the Americans at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

'Before the competition started, we planned to break the world record in this event,' Le said.

Yang Aihua clinched the 400m freestyle title as the defending champion and world record holder, Evans, of the US, finished fifth.

The second slowest qualifier for the final, Yang clocked 4:09.64 to take gold ahead of the American, Cristina Teuscher, while Claudia Poll, of Costa Rica, took her second bronze in successive days. The Olympic champion, Dagmar Hase, missed the final. Hase, ninth quickest in the heats, found her team-mate, Jana Henke, unwilling to cede her place in the eight-woman final, as Hase had done to such telling effect for Franziska van Almsick 24 hours earlier. Henke finished out of the medals.

Egerszegi, of Hungary, slumped to her first major defeat for five years as He Cihong, of China, won the 100m backstroke title. She swam 1:00.57 to lower the championship record for the second time in the space of a few hours.

Popov struck gold for Russia in the 100m freestyle but was given a tougher fight than expected by the American, Gary Hall, the son of the former American Olympian, Gary Snr. Popov overhauled Hall on the second length of the Foro Italico pool but his time of 49.12sec was well outside the record of 48.21sec he set in Monaco three months ago.

Britain's Sarah Hardcastle flopped in the 400m freestyle consolation final, finishing a distant last in 4:19.40, more than six seconds adrift of the time she swam to win Commonwealth bronze in Canada.

(Photograph omitted)