BEIJING-Despite threats of boycotts, just over 200 swimmers from 16 countries and 18 regions from China took part in the third leg of the 1998 FINA World Cup, Jan. 25-26, held in the magnificent Yingdong Swimming Pool, built for the Asian Games in 1990.
Finals were scheduled at 2 pm on the first afternoon and at 8 pm on the second evening due to live television and a vast potential audience of many millions. Prelims were held at 9 am both days.
Everyone stayed at a nearby hotel within walking distance of the pool. Beijing is vast, with 12 million people and 10 million bicycles. Some people had time to visit the Great Wall an hour's drive from the city, or the Forbidden City, where the emperors lived.
When Hu Xiaowen (CHN) posted the world's fastest time of this 1998 season in the 200 IM with her winning effort of 2:11.81, few took notice.
But at the end of the program of the second day, Hu Xiaowen (CHN), 18, established the first FINA recognized world record for the women's 100 IM with 1:00.60, bettering the existing world best of 1:01.03 by Louise Karlsson, SWE, from 1992. Hu's record is pending FINA ratification after her mandatory drug test. (It was ratified on March 25.)
It saved what had been a rather ordinary competition, and earned world-wide coverage for this one effort.
Chinese swimmers dominated the competition due to their large participation with 12 golds and 44 total medals, with Germany and Australia well back.
Only five Germans came to Beijing, to fulfill their contract to take part in all World Cups. Everyone left with one or more medals, for a very successful outing.
Australia's Geoff Huegill picked up medals in the sprint free, backstroke and butterfly for a total of five.