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Shibata wins women's 800m freestyle

August 20, 2004 23:27 IST
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Japan's Ai Shibata wore down French teenager Laure Manaudou to win the women's 800 metres freestyle gold medal at the Athens Olympics on Friday.

Manaudou looked to have her second gold of the Games in the bag when she opened up a big lead over the field but did not count on the finishing burst of Shibata.

The 22-year-old Japanese woman began to close in on Manaudou over the final 300 metres and finally got her nose in front turning for the last lap.

She pulled half a body length in front but the Frenchwoman fought back and the pair went stroke for stroke with Shibata just winning the sprint to the line.

She won in a time of eight minutes 24.54 seconds, less than a second outside the Asian record she set earlier this year.

Manaudou took the silver in 8:24.96, while American Diana Munz grabbed the bronze in 8:26.61.

Manaudou, who also won a bronze in 100 backstroke at the Athens Games, was the favourite to win the longest race on the women's programme after she became the first Frenchwoman to win an Olympic swimming title with victory in the 400 freestyle on Sunday.

She was just two seconds off world record pace at the halfway stage and almost two and a half seconds off world record pace but her fast pace began to take its toll.

Shibata provided Japan with their third gold medal in swimming at Athens after Kosuke Kitajima won the men's breaststroke double.

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