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On target

South Korean archers hit world mark

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Latest: Saturday September 16, 2000 05:03 AM

  Italy's Natalia Valeeva, left, takes aim as Korea's Kim Soo-Nyung watches. AP

SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) -- South Korea's women archers recorded a combined team score world record on the opening day of full competition at the Sydney Olympics on Saturday, putting them on target for gold.

The record, two silvers and one bronze were the only really bright spots for Asians as the continent's swimmers sank almost without trace in the Homebush Olympics pool.

Triple gold medallist Kim Soo-Nyung, returning at the age of 30 from seven years in retirement, scored 671 out of 720 to take first place in the women's individual ranking archery round.

Compatriot Kim Nam-Soon scored 662, with Yun Mi-Jin shooting 661, to give South Korea a combined team score of 1,994, beating the nation's previous mark of 1,984 set in 1996.

South Korea narrowly missed gold in the first final of the Games. Seventeen-year-old Kang Cho-Hyun qualified in first place and seemed set for victory but was edged by Nancy Johnson of the United States.

In a dramatic finale, Johnson ended with 497.7 to the Korean's 497.5. Gao Jing of China finished strongly to claim the bronze medal with 497.2.

In the day's other shooting final, Wang Yifu of China had to settle for the silver as Frenchman Frank Dumoulin won the men's 10 meter air pistol with a new Olympic record score of 688.9. Wang, who had 686.9, matched the silver medal he won in Atlanta four years ago. Igor Basinksy of Belarus took bronze with 682.7.

Japan's Kiyomi Niwata was the top Asian finisher in the women's triathlon won by Switzerland's Brigitte McMahon over home favorite Michellie Jones. Niwata wound up 14th.

Japan's Akiko Hirao was 17th, with China's Wang Dan and Shi Meng 32nd and 40th respectively. Japan's Haruna Hosoya did not finish.

China's domination of women's swimming over the past decade and the drug busts that followed seemed a distant memory after they were conspicuously slow in the Olympic pool.

Four Chinese women, including two world champions, were in action during Saturday's morning heats but none made it to the next stage.

Reigning world champion Chen Yan failed to qualify for the final of the women's 400 meter individual medley, finishing more than 10 seconds outside her own world record. She has suffered from ill health and poor form since she won the event at the world championships in Perth in January 1998.

Teammate Liu Yin, who celebrated her 16th birthday this month, finished sixth in her heat.

Liu Limin, the 1994 world champion, couldn't even make the semifinals of the women's 100 butterfly, finishing 18th overall. Her younger teammate Ruan Yi, who finished fifth at the 1999 short-course world championships, was way back in 25th place.

Even the Chinese 4x100 freestyle relay team made no impression. China holds the world record in two of the women's three relay events but finished only ninth of 13 in Sydney.

South Asian swimmers had a desperate day, even though Singapore's Sng Jui Wei won his heat in the men's 400 meters freestyle in a national best four minutes, 1.34 seconds and Thailand's Torwai Sethsothron took his in 3:56.68.

In fencing, South Korea's Lee Sang-Ki was making a strong bid for a medal with a quarter-final win in the men's individual epee that left him as the only Asian still in the event.

Thai welterweight Parkpoom Jangphonak ended Yugoslavia's involvement in the Olympic boxing tournament after the closest fight of the opening session. He won 55-37 on a secondary count after battling back to a 9-9 draw in their first round fight.

The opening boxing bout was stopped a minute into the third round when Australian referee Gerardus Mevissen ruled South Korean Suk-Hwan Cho to be outclassed by Uzbek Alisher Rahimov.

Weightlifter Martinho de Araujo made history by becoming the first East Timorese to compete as an independent athlete at the Olympic Games.

De Araujo, one of four East Timorese competitors in Sydney, lifted 90 kg with his second attempt in the clean-and-jerk for a total score of 157.5 kg.

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