Double happiness for China as North Korean lifters smash records
HANGZHOU: Hosts China romped to gold in the men’s and women’s 100m at the Asian Games as North Korea’s weightlifters scorched several world records on an action-packed Saturday.
Golds were up for grabs on a damp day in Hangzhou in everything from diving and eSports to athletics and roller skating.
China inevitably hoovered up many of them to take them to 114 golds in total at the halfway stage of the competition, well clear of Japan (28 golds) and South Korea (27).
The 100m sprints are among the most prestigious events of any Games and it was two Chinese speedsters who thrilled the raucous crowd with victories at the 80,000-capacity Hangzhou Olympic stadium.
First, Ge Manqi raced to the line in 11.23sec to take the women’s crown and then Xie Zhenye made it double home delight with his winning time of 9.97sec for the men’s title.
Stepping up in the absence of injured compatriot Su Bingtian, Xie edged Thai runner-up Puripol Boonson (10.02) and Malaysia’s third-placed Muhd Azeem Fahmi (10.11) at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center stadium.
Among other notable performances in track and field, the world’s number-two ranked pole vaulter EJ Obiena of the Philippines cleared 5.90m for gold and a Games record.
Saudi Arabian Yousef Masrahi, 35, turned back the clock to win the 400m, 11 years after the Asian record-holder had his first gold in the 2014 event in Incheon.
There were some eye-popping performances from North Korea’s women weightlifters.
They were competing at an international event for the first time since December 2019 after the country sealed its borders because of the pandemic.
But that did not stop them from shattering a slew of world records.
Ri Song Gum broke two world records in the women’s 49kg, the first weightlifting event in Hangzhou.
Then Kang Hyong Yong, a 24-year-old with no international pedigree, set a hat-trick of world records in snatch, clean and jerk, and combined on her way to gold in the women’s 55kg class.
China’s world champion Jiang Huihua, who took silver, said she was “surprised” at Ri’s success after such a long absence.
There were tears on the podium as Ri and Kang saluted the North Korean flag — which was hoisted once again in contravention of a World Anti-Doping Agency edict.
“I feel very happy about breaking the world record and when I see my national flag flying I feel very excited to bring this good news to my people,” said Ri.
There was more joy for North Korea in the women’s football as a late three-goal burst secured a 4-1 win over South Korea in the quarter-finals, with midfielder Ri Hak scoring a double.
Without a FIFA ranking after spurning international football for years due to Covid-19, the North Koreans have come back strong at Hangzhou.
In the tennis, Chinese trailblazer Zhang rode a wave of crowd support to beat Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-6 (9/7) for the men’s singles gold, roaring back from 4-1 down in the first set after a nervous start at the Olympic Sports Centre.
The first Chinese man to break into the top 100 in world rankings, Zhang claimed the hosts’ first gold medal in the men’s event since Pan Bing won back-to-back titles in 1990-94
In table tennis, the hosts won all five golds five years ago and are a global superpower in the sport.
But they were on the end of three defeats in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
In the biggest shock, the 16th-ranked Indian women’s pair of Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee — not related — defeated world champions Chen Meng and Wang Yidi 3-1 to reach the last four.
Indian golfer Aditi Ashok shot a sensational 61 in a flawless third round to all but wrap up the women’s gold at the West Lake International course.
Rolling in nine birdies and an eagle on the par-four ninth, Ashok will tee off in the final round with a seven-stroke lead over Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023