China make golden start on first day of Asian Games

HANGZHOU: Hosts China swept the first gold medals at the Asian Games in Hangzhou today in a statement of intent on day one of the region's answer to the Olympics.

China claimed the first gold when Zou Jiaqi and Qiu Xiuping dominated the women's lightweight double sculls rowing to kick off a medal rush for the home nation.

China won 12 of the first 19 golds at the Games, with their rowers especially emphatic. South Korea were their nearest challengers with four golds in total.

Zou and Qiu finished in 7min 6.78sec in their final, with Uzbekistan's Luizakhon Islamova and Malika Tagmativa taking silver, almost 10 seconds behind.

It was especially satisfying for Zou, who hails from Hangzhou.

"I am very excited as it's my first Asian Games," she said, clutching her gold medal.

"Stepping onto the podium today is a new starting point to help us prepare for next year's Paris Olympics," added Qiu.

The hosts soon doubled up on the rowing lake as the men's lightweight double sculls gold was won by Fan Junjie and Sun Man, who finished five seconds clear of India's Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh.

China won six of the seven golds at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre rowing venue today morning with only Hong Kong's Lam San-tung and Wong Wai-chun getting in on the party by winning the men's pairs.

China's rip-roaring start to the 19th Asian Games also brought golds in modern pentathlon, shooting and wushu.

Swimming is one of the highlights of the Games and will see seven finals later today at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre Aquatic Sports Arena, where China are also expected to dominate.

Triple breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang upstaged Olympic gold medallist Wang Shun in the morning heats to qualify fastest for the men's 200m individual medley final.

Qin burst onto the scene at the July world championships in Fukuoka, becoming the first man in history to sweep all three breaststroke titles and also setting a new world record in the 200m.

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zhang Yufei, also from the host nation, fired off a warning shot of her own with a dominant 200m butterfly swim, touching more than three seconds clear of teammate Yu Liyan and Japan's Airi Mitsui.

South Korean sensation Hwang Sun-woo got the better of breakout Chinese freestyler Pan Zhanle in their 100m heat, though China's Wang Haoyu qualified fastest in 48.13.

Elsewhere, India's women cricketers ripped through Bangladesh, dismissing them for just 51 in the first semi-final.

They knocked off their target in just 8.2 overs and will face Sri Lanka in tomorrow's final of the Twenty20 competition.

Other sports beginning today include boxing, rugby sevens, hockey and eSports – where superstars such as South Korea's "Faker" are expected to draw huge crowds for its debut as a full Asian Games medal event.

President Xi Jinping opened the Games on Saturday night after a delay of a year because of China's now-abandoned zero-Covid policy.

With more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories, the Asian Games has more participants than the Olympics.

They will battle for medals in 40 sports across 54 venues.

Most events take place in Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people near Shanghai, but some sports are being staged in cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometres to the south. — AFP

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