Asian Games: Hosts South Korea set medal pace

Hosts South Korea were the Asian Games` surprise first-day medal leaders on Saturday but they had to share the limelight with China and record-breaking North Korea.

Asian Games: Hosts South Korea set medal pace
Gold medalist South Korea's Lee Ra-jin, left and silver medalist South Korea's Kim Ji-yeon, right, pose for the photographers during the medal ceremony.

Incheon: Hosts South Korea were the Asian Games` surprise first-day medal leaders on Saturday but they had to share the limelight with China and record-breaking North Korea.

South Korea won titles in cycling, fencing, equestrian and wushu to narrowly top the medals table ahead of China as the Olympic-size event rolled into action in Incheon.

They got off to a rocky start when China, led by the unheralded Zhang Menyuang, beat them to the Games` first gold in the women`s 10 metre air pistol.

North Korea`s Om Yun-Chol set the first world record of the Games when he beat his own clean and jerk best with 170kg in the 56kg class.

But victory in the men`s team sprint and men`s epee late in the day took South Korea to five golds, ahead of China on overall medals won.

Saturday was the start of 15 days of competition involving 9,500 athletes from 45 nations, and with 439 gold medals on offer across 36 different sports.

China, who won a record 199 gold medals at the 2010 Games, led the table for most of the day before being caught by South Korea.

Army sharpshooter Jitu Rai held his nerve on the final shot to snatch 50m pistol gold from Vietnam`s Nguyen Hoang Phuong and put India amongst the golds.

And China`s Zhong Tianshi rode to victory in the women`s team sprint, a day before she challenges Hong Kong`s Olympic medal-winner Sarah Lee Wai-sze in the keirin.
While 18 gold medals were contested in venues scattered across South Korea`s third city, Jakarta was rubber-stamped as host of the next Asiad in 2018.

Olympic president Thomas Bach told the Olympic Council of Asia`s general assembly that bids for future Summer and Winter Games must address the issue of "sustainability".

"We need to address the fact that in today`s world the Games need to make a greater contribution to sustainability," he said.

"In the future we want to invite potential bidding cities to tell us how they see the Olympic Games fitting into their social, economical, ecological and sports environment," he added.

Through hosting Asiad, Incheon has become South Korea`s most indebted city and Vietnam pulled out of organising the next Asian Games because of the cost involved.

China`s Zhang is only ranked 29th in the world but after helping win the team 10m air pistol title, she beat South Korea`s hot favourite Jung Jee-Hae into second place.

Chinese coach Wang Yifu said her triumph was doubly impressive as organisers had "deliberately" arranged the 10m air pistol as the first event, hoping for a home victory.

"It was hard for us to win this medal," Wang said.

The UAE suffered a blow when its three-strong judo team was expelled from the Games for breaching eligibility requirements.

Mihail Marchitan, Ivan Remarenco and Victor Scvortov were sent home from because they failed to meet an Asiad three-year residency rule for naturalised citizens.

Thailand`s equestrian princess Sirivannavari Nariratana was down the field in the dressage, but there was an emotional team win for South Korea`s Kim Hyun-Sub, whose uncle was crushed to death by his falling horse at the 2006 Asiad.

On day two, Chinese swimming superstar Sun Yang will meet South Korea`s Park Tae-Hwan in the first of three explosive races in the pool.

And China will want to find an immediate response after coming off second best to South Korea on the first day of full competition.

"We have been leading both medal and gold medal tables at nine straight Asian Games," said China`s delegation chief Liu Peng. "We certainly want to keep winning this time."

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