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Qin breaks Asian Games record as North Koreans snub South on podium

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HANGZHOU: Swimming sensation Qin Haiyang added another title to his name to inflate China’s already bulging gold-medal haul and North Koreans stirred up drama by snubbing their South Korean rivals on the podium on day two of the Hangzhou Asian Games on Monday.

The hosts enjoyed success in gymnastics, fencing, rowing, shooting, tae­k­wondo and mountain biking to top the medals table in Hangzhou with 39 golds at the end of the second full day of action. South Korea and Japan are their closest competitors with a distant 10 and five golds respectively.

India won their first golds while a nine-year-old skateboarder melted hearts at the Games in the eastern Chinese city, which were delayed by a year due to Covid-19 measures.

China romped to all seven titles on the opening day of swimming on Sunday in an ominous display ahead of next summer’s Paris Olympics, but they did not have it all their own way a day later.

South Korea’s Ji Yu-chan set a new Asian Games record in the men’s 50m freestyle of 21.72secs in a shock win ahead of Hong Kong’s Ian Ho (21.87) and teenage Chinese star Pan Zhanle (21.92).

Olympic silver medallist Siobhan Haughey clinched Hong Kong’s first Asian Games swimming gold ever with an emphatic victory in the 200m freestyle in a sizzling 1min 54.12sec, another Games record.

“I guess I was hoping for a little faster time, but it’s not too far off my best time, so I’m still happy with it,” she said.

South Korea’s night got even better when they took gold ahead of the hosts in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay in another surprise.

The other four races all went the way of China’s swimmers, with the hulking 24-year-old Qin adding Games 100m breaststroke gold to his recent world title.

Qin, also the 50m and 200m world champion, romped home in a new Games-record time of 57.76secs, a gaping 1.33sec ahead of team-mate Yan Zibei.

But don’t call him the “Breas­tstr­oke Prince”. “Maybe just call me a breaststroke swimmer,” he said modestly.

The hosts rounded off another dominant day with gold ahead of Japan in the women’s team event of the artistic gymnastics.

“Whilst in the match we both cheered each other on and we respect each other,” Chinese gymnast Zhang Xinyi said of regional rivals Japan.

India’s first gold came in the men’s 10 metre air rifle team before their women’s cricketers beat Sri Lanka by 19 runs to clinch a second gold, the country’s first in cricket since the sport joined the quadrennial Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.

“It’s a gold medal for the whole of India,” said batter Richa Ghosh.

Cricket, which has hopes of becoming an Olympic sport, returned to the Asian Games this year after being omitted from the last edition in Indonesia in 2018.

World records fell in shooting with India and China both displaying pinpoint precision.

The Indian trio of Divyansh Panwar, Rudrankksh Patil and Aishwary Tomar blew away the field with a new world best to win the team event.

Three North Korean marksmen refused to join their South Korean rivals in a group photo of medal winners after narrowly missing out on gold in men’s team 10m running target competition.

Uzbekistan stole some of China’s thunder by pipping the hosts to gold in the men’s four and women’s single skulls.

The single skulls winner, Anna Prakaten, came into the event with some pedigree having won silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 whilst representing the Russian Olympic Committee.

Another who upset China’s party was Thailand’s Panipak Wongpa­ttanakit who leapt for joy after beating local fighter Guo Qing 2-1 in a tight and dramatic contest in the women’s -49kg taekwondo final. It was Thailand’s first gold of the Games.

“My dad and my whole family are very happy,” said Olympic and former world champion Wongpattanakit following a fight that included a delay in the final round whilst officials debated a points decision and a late comeback to snatch the victory.

The youngsters stole the show at the skate park, including nine-year-old Mazel Paris Alegado from the Philippines, who is reported to be the youngest athlete at the Games.

“It was really fun,” she said after her seventh-placed finish in the women’s park. “I’m really proud that I got here.”

Japan’s Hinano Kusaki, a comparative veteran at 15, won gold. China’s Chen Ye, who is the same age, won the men’s event.

Esports, which is huge in China, is a medal event at the Asian Games for the first time and the participation of Lee Sang-hyeok — known by his gaming handle ‘Faker’ – has given the competition’s profile a big boost.

The South Korean did not disappoint his legions of fans on Monday, helping his Korean team beat Kazakhstan 1-0 in one of the preliminary matches in the ‘League of Legends’ category.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023


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