TOKYO — The rivalry of economic powerhouses China, Japan and the United States played out in an Olympic swimming pool on Thursday, where a world record in the women’s freestyle relay put the Chinese ahead by one gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

American joy at their own double gold in the pool was tempered as pole vaulter Sam Kendricks was ruled out of the Games due to a positive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) test, prompting members of the Australian athletics team to isolate in their rooms and highlighting the ever-present risk of infection at the Games.

China gained their first gold in the Tokyo pool with Zhang Yufei winning the women’s 200 meter butterfly, and then she returned to the pool to help her team beat the fancied Americans and Australians to win the 4×200 freestyle relay, setting a world record along the way.

The relay victory put China ahead of the United States and Japan on the gold medal rankings and triggered cheers from Chinese journalists in the media center.

China was leading the medal tally with 14 golds and 29 medals in total. The United States and Japan both have 13 golds with the Americans landing 36 medals in total compared to Japan’s 22.

The surprise world record by the Chinese women’s freestyle relay team provided a swift answer to the double gold for US swimmers Caeleb Dressel in the 100m freestyle and Bobby Finke in the 800m freestyle. — Reuters