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Records continue to fall at the Cube

Liu Zige (right) celebrates her 200 butterfly world record with teammate and silver medalist Jiao Liuyang. Liu Zige (right) celebrates her 200 butterfly world record with teammate and silver medalist Jiao Liuyang. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
By Paul Newberry
Associated Press / August 14, 2008
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BEIJING - Michael Phelps isn't the only swimmer setting records at the Water Cube.

While Phelps took care of a routine matter, advancing to the finals of the 200-meter individual medley, others got a chance to claim the spotlight today.

The home team celebrated when Liu Zige won the women's 200-meter butterfly for China's first swimming gold medal of the Games, setting a world record of 2 minutes 4.18 seconds. Jiao Liuyang also went under the previous best to give the teammates a 1-2 finish and send the crowd into a frenzy.

Led by Stephanie Rice, the Australians set the 18th world swimming record of the Games in the women's 800-meter freestyle relay, obliterating the previous mark by nearly six seconds to upset the Americans. The United States had won that event all three times since it was added to the Olympic program in 1996, but they couldn't match the Aussies' blazing time of 7:44.31 that shattered the previous record by an astonishing 5.78. China held off the US squad to win silver.

Japan's Kosuke Kitajima completed a historic second straight Olympic double in the breaststroke with a win in the 200, the first swimmer to claim gold in both the 100 and 200 at consecutive Games.

Kitajima lived up to his favorite's billing in the 200 breast, winning easily in 2:07.64 but coming up 0.13 short of his own world record, set in June. With top rival Brendan Hansen not even in the field - he shockingly failed to qualify for the event at the US trials - Kitajima finished a half-body length ahead of silver medalist Brenton Rickard of Australia (2:08.88) to match his two breaststroke golds in Athens four years ago. France's Hugues Duboscq claimed the bronze.

Alain Bernard of France redeemed himself for getting caught on the anchor leg in the 400 free relay, beating Australian rival Eamon Sullivan in the 100 freestyle. It was a bit of a letdown, though, when the furious race failed to set a world record.

Bernard and Sullivan traded off the record in the semifinals, the Aussie winding up with the ultimate mark of 47.05. They were stroke for stroke throughout the down-and-back final, but it was Bernard who touched first in 47.21. Sullivan claimed silver in 47.32, while Jason Lezak of the United States and Brazil's Cesar Cielo shared the bronze.

After chasing down Bernard in the relay to make sure Phelps stayed on course for eight gold medals, Lezak added to his tally with the first individual medal of his career.

Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands called it a career. The Flying Dutchman announced his retirement after a fifth-place finish.

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