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CHINA DOMINATING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

With four gold medals and a world record, it was China's day again in the swimming pool and diving arena.

Yet a Russian with an elegant swimming stroke stole the show at the World Championships.It didn't bother Alex Popov, world record-holder for swimming's most prestigious event, the men's 100 meters, that Chinese women were shrugging off allegations of doping and walking away with handfuls of gold medals.

As far as Popov is concerned, he is in complete control of his event, having added the world title to his Olympic championship and world record.

"I can't lose it," the Russian said. "Even if I don't feel good, I just can't lose it."

Popov didn't need to go anywhere near the 48.21 he swam at Monte Carlo in June to beat Matt Biondi's 6-year-old world mark.

To win the world title, he swam almost leisurely to finish in 49.12, and no one this year has gone faster than that.

"I will be in better shape in Atlanta, I promise," Popov said, looking ahead to the defense of his Olympic title.

By that time, he may be the first swimmer under 48 seconds.

"It's possible, I can tell you," he said. "But it's up to me."

American Gary Hall won the silver medal behind Popov and was ahead of the Russian at the turn.

That led to some friendly debate between the two at the postrace news conference.

"You know it's not easy to swim the second length under 24 seconds," Popov told the American.

"What he says does motivate me," Hall said. "It's kind of unusual, but if you talk like that, you are setting yourself up for defeat."

Lose?

That's almost unthinkable for Popov.

"We come here to win," he said. "Somebody else comes here to lose, that's why I can't.'

Hall, 19, believes his time will come.

"He's very confident and that helps sometimes," the American said, "but it's the training that counts.

"Right now, he's swimming faster than I am. But I don't like being blown off like that."

While Tan Shuping won China's fourth diving gold, the women's 3-meter springboard, its swimmers won all three women's swimming titles, with the 400 relay team breaking the world record.

He Cihong won the 100 backstroke and Yang Aihua romped to victory in the 400 freestyle.

In the final event of the day, Le Jingyi, Shan Ying, Le Ying and Lu Bin were times in 3 minutes, 37.91 seconds to slice 1.55 off the 2-year-old mark set by the United States at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

It was a second world record for Le Jingyi, who broke the 100 freestyle mark on Monday.

The American quartet of Angel Martino, Amy Van Dyken, Nicole Haislett and Olympic champion Jenny Thompson finished far behind in second in 3:41.50.

Germany's team, 200 meter world record-holder and gold medalist Franzi Van Almsick, Katrin Meissner, Kerstin Kielgass and Daniela Hunger, placed third in 3:42.94.

Afterwards, the Chinese sounded Popov-like concerning the inevitability of the record.

"Before the competition started, we were planning to break the record," Le Jingyi said. "I didn't plan to break the 100-meter record because my coach didn't want me to."

Russia won two golds and the Americans picked up three silver and two bronze medals as the three swimming superpowers dominated the third's day's swimming.

As well as Popov's victory in the 100 freestyle, Vladimir Selkov triumphed in a championship record time in the 200 backstroke.

American silver medalists were Hall, Cristina Teuscher - second to Yang - and the 400 freestyle relay team. Bronze medalists were Barbara Bedford in the 100 backstroke and Royce Sharp in the men's 200 backstroke.

No swimming was scheduled in the pool today. A 25-kilometer event was held in the nearby Terreno Sea, with American Chad Hundeby defending his world title.