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LEAD: Asian Games: Japanese swimmers cruise to finals.

DOHA, Dec. 2 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH QUOTES)

All the Japanese swimmers who appeared in the morning heats on the opening day of the Asian Games swimming competition had little trouble advancing to the finals, with three of them clocking the fastest time in their events.

Hidemasa Sano swam quickest in the men's 400-meter individual medley heats with a time of 4 minutes, 25.21 seconds at the Hamad Aquatic Center, 0.41 clear of compatriot Shinya Taniguchi who advanced to the final in second place.

''I can't go home without a medal, especially in the absence of Chinese competitors in this event,'' Sano said. ''I know I'll have to come up strong if the final becomes a contest between me and Shinya.''

Ryuichi Shibata topped the men's 200-meter butterfly field in 1:57.65 with world silver medalist Takeshi Matsuda in second 0.30 behind, while Maki Mita was fastest in the women's 200-meter freestyle in 2:00.44 ahead of China's Pang Jiaying and Yang Yu.

''I didn't think anything about any of the others in my heat,'' Shibata said. ''The results of the heats don't reflect the real strengths of the finalists but I'm looking for nothing but a 1-2 finish with Takeshi in the final.''

Japanese compatriot Norie Urabe was sixth in 2:03.23.

Athens Olympic women's 200-meter butterfly bronze medalist Yuko Nakanishi got off to a relatively slow start to her campaign in Doha with the fourth best time. Fellow Japanese Ayako Doi advanced in third, while Singapore's Tao Li won the heats.

Asami Kitagawa and Yoshimi Miwa qualified for the 50-meter breaststroke final in second and third, respectively.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Dec 4, 2006
Words:275
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