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Shikha Tandon qualifies for Athens

October 25, 2003 20:02 IST

Uzbekistan's Nachaev Ravil claimed the first gold medal of the first Afro-Asian Games, easily winning the men's 50 metres freestyle, but it was also an unexpectedly delightful day for India as Shikha Tandon qualified for the Athens Olympics, while winning a silver medal in the women's 50 metres freestyle, on Saturday.

Ravil kick-started the fight for Asian supremacy in the swimming pool, upsetting China's Than Zuo in a close race. The Uzbek clocked 23.63 seconds to Than Zuo's 23.70s.

Musa Bakare of Nigeria claimed the bronze in 23.87 seconds.

The Indian camp though was ecstatic after winning three silver and two bronze medals on the opening day of the swimming competition.

Tandon displayed her growing stature as she came close to winning the women's 50m freestyle gold. She had to bow to the superiority of the Chinese, finishing three-tenths of a second behind the winner.

Zhong maintained a clear lead to take home the gold in 26.20 seconds. Shikha's timing of 26.50 seconds, however, was better than the Olympic qualifying mark of 26.92 seconds.

Japan's Atsumi Yamada won the bronze, clocking 26.79s.

There was further jubilation in the Indian camp when Shikha's Karnataka state mate Rehan Poncha matched stroke for stroke with the African might in the 400m individual medley for men.

Alegiria's Sofiane David (4 minutes and 39.89 seconds) and Senegal's Malick Fall (4m:44.17s) claimed the gold and silver respectively, while Rehan won the bronze with a timing of 4m:45.71s.

In another star turn by an Indian, Delhi's Richa Mishra won the silver in the 400 metres individual medley for women.

Richa led for a better part of the race before Korea's Lee Sun A snatched the lead and beat the Indian in the breaststroke leg.

Sun took the gold in 5 minutes and 8.87 seconds while Richa clocked 5m:10.99s.

Faiza Saria Dahane of Algeria was third in 5m:11.70s.

Richa, whose pet events are the 100 metres and 200 metres butterfly, said, "This is a good experience for me although it is not my event."

Two more medals came India's way in the 4x200 metres freestyle relay. The team of Akbar Ali Mir, Srinand Srinivas, Rahul Batra and Amar Muralidharan brought India another silver.

South Africa, represented by Nicholas Wilson, Slimani Agiles, Sofiane Daid, Marez Mebarek won the gold, clocking 7minutes and 57.82 seconds, while the Indian quartet clocked 8m:9.57s.

Uzbekistan claimed the bronze in 8:14.59 seconds.

The Indians' cup of joy was full when Nisha Millet, Parita Parek, Awani Sawant and Sivaranjani anchored India to a bronze medal in the women's 4x200 metres freestyle relay, clocking 9m:09.80 seconds.

The Chinese reasserted their dominance, winning the gold through the quartet of Zhu Yingwen, Zhou Xlaowei, Li Tin and Chen Hua.

South Africa, strong contenders in the event, won the silver through Christiane Zweiges, Natalie Du Toit, Velia Van Rensburg and Sabria Dahane.

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