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Japan sink China as race hots up

October 01, 2002

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BUSAN, Sept 30: Japan’s swimmers ruled in the pool on day two of the Asian Games here Monday but China stayed on top of the medal rankings with five more golds.

The opening skirmishes in the much-hyped battle for swimming supremacy between Japan and China were completely one-sided, with the Japanese snatching four golds to one.

Takahito Mori led the charge in the 200m individual medley, romping home for the first gold of the night in a new Games and Asian record time.

If Japan’s triple Asian Games gold medallist Tomoko Hagiwara had not pulled out of the championships after suffering breathing problems related to stress at the Pan Pac championships, it could well have been a clean sweep.

Instead, Yang Yu won China’s consolation gold in the women’s 200m freestyle in a new Asiad record time of 1:58.43, leading from start to finish in bettering the 1:59.77 Le Ying of China swam in 1994.

Elsewhere China enjoyed plenty of success outside the pool, with cyclist Li Meifang sparking the gold rush early on with victory in the 24.2km individual time trial.

Atlanta Olympic judo champion Sun Fuming, 28, turned back the clock to beat South Korea’s Choi Sook-Ie in the over-78 kilogram heavyweight final to underscore China’s supremacy in the women’s game.

Other gold medals for China came in fencing and women’s weightlifting, where world record holder Li Zhuo of China survived a bout of stage fright to capture gold in the 48kg class.

Political rivals North and South Korea booked a Thursday quarterfinal round men’s basketball showdown, a landmark matchup of political rivals that already has a victory guarantee.

South Korea defeated rival Japan 79-62 while Philippines downed North Korea 89-63 in preliminary games here Monday, ensuring 2.36m giant Ri Myong-Hun and his North teammates would face the skilled 3-point shooters from the South.

Moon Kyung-Eun scored 26 points in South Korea’s comeback victory.

Mind games began even before the tough talk. North Korean players were cheered when they walked into the arena early in the fourth quarter of South Korea’s victory, the yells for Ri loudest of all.

Not only did the South Koreans notice, they opened the final period with a 15-4 run that was intended to send a message to their Communist future foes.

Thursday’s meeting for bragging rights on the court will be the focus of attention in both nations, whose delegations walked into the Opening Ceremony here Sunday together under a unity flag of the Korean peninsula.

After their loss, the North Koreans departed without comment.

Quarterfinal groups were set Monday. Two teams from each round-robin group reach the Oct 12 semifinals.

Philippines are in Group One with Taiwan, Japan and gold medal favorite China, which routed Hong Kong 112-38 to win preliminary Group A.

The Koreas are in Group Two with Hong Kong and Kazakhstan, which avoided elimination with an 86-75 triumph over Taiwan, playing here as Chinese Taipei.

The Philippines’ superior speed and tough play by big men Pauliasi Taulava, 29, and Ken Duremdes, 28, proved too much for North Korea. Filipinos outrebounded North Korea 48-33 and outmuscled 35-year-old man-mountain Ri.

Duremdes had 21 points while Taulava had 13 points and 15 rebounds. They sparked a 23-3 run in the final 6:34 of the first half and North Korea never came within 10 after that.

Pak Chon-Jong led North Korea with 20 points. Ri had 13 points and nine rebounds.

China rolled to a 47-18 half-time edge. Hong Kong hit only 15-of-56 shots and were outscored 39-6 in the the fourth quarter.

The Kazaks had to beat Taiwan or Oman would have advanced in their place. Yevgeny Issakov scored a game-high 26 points while Vitali Strebkov added 18 and Boris Tikhonenko had 16 points and 17 rebounds.

South Korea’s Lee Shin-Mi broke China’s stranglehold on the fencing competition with a 15-8 win over countrywoman Lee Gyu-Young in the final of the women’s individual sabre.—AFP/Reuters