Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'Little Monster' gives Taiwan second gold at Asian Games

Taipei, Nov. 15 (CNA) Taiwanese billiards star Kuo Po-cheng finally captured a long-awaited major championship by winning gold in the men's 8-ball tourney at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou on Monday, and helped lift his country to fourth in the games' medals table.

Kuo, long one of Taiwan's elite pool players, said he wanted to dedicate his gold medal to his two-month old son after defeating Ibrahim Amir of Malaysia 7-4 in the final of the men's 8-ball tournament.

"Getting married and having a child is a solid feeling, because having family responsibilities has given me greater stability mentally," Kuo said.

He added that he would probably use the government's NT$3 million award for winning an Asian Games gold medal to buy his family a house.

Nicknamed "Little Monster" because of his boyish looks and 1.58-meter-tall stature, the 32-year-old Kuo had never won an international championship in his 12 years playing pool at the highest level prior to Monday.

He reached the World Pool Championship final this year before losing to Francisco Bustamante of the Philippines and finished third in the 2004 World 9-Ball Championship, but he had to rebound from a bad spell around the time his wife had their baby to even be competitive in Guangzhou.

"There were people who doubted me, who wondered how I could compete in the Asian Games playing so badly, " Kuo said. "But for people to say those things was a form of encouragement."

He entered the tournament with a more mature attitude that he said made him hard to beat this past weekend.

"Players have to know their own situation and find a way to adjust, " Kuo said. "With the form I've been in the past two days, it would have been hard for me to lose."

Kuo's victory gave Taiwan its second gold medal of the games, and after most events were completed on Monday, the country had won two gold, three silver and nine bronze medals, placing it fourth on the medals table behind China, South Korea and Japan.

Aside from Kuo's gold, the Taiwanese won four other medals Monday.

The duos of Cheng Chu-ling and Li Chia-hung and Hang Chia-ling and Liu Chia-lun won silver and bronze respectively in the soft tennis mixed doubles event on Monday.

Lien Chen-ling won a bronze medal in judo in the under 57 kg. weight division, while Wen Ching-ni won bronze in women's Wushu competition.

Though no medals were up for grabs in tennis Monday, Taiwan reached the finals of both the men's and women's team events in what could be considered upsets.

Without top star Lu Yen-hsun, who had to withdraw from the Asian Games singles and mixed doubles tournaments with a back injury he aggravated on Sunday, Taiwan's men still managed to defeat India 2-1 behind clutch play from Yang Tsung-hua.

Yang struggled through the opening singles before winning the third-set tiebreaker to defeat the relatively unknown Sanam Singh 6-7 (3) , 6-2, 7-6 (5) .

His point was needed because Lu's replacement, Chen Ti, could not overcome world No. 105 Somdev Devvarman, losing 6-2, 7-6 (4) after holding a 4-1 lead in the second set.

That left Yang and Yi Chu-huan, Taiwan's favorite Davis Cup doubles duo, to battle past Singh and Devvarman in the decisive doubles. They won 6-4, 7-6 (1), after they saved three set points on Yi's serve at 4-5 to avoid playing a third set.

In Tuesday's final, probably without Lu, Taiwan will be a decided underdog against Uzbekistan, which is led by world No. 40 Denis Istomin.

The women outlasted a higher seeded Japanese team on Monday, with Chang Kai-chen topping Ayumi Morita 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in one of the singles and the veteran doubles duo of Chuang Chia-jung and Hsieh Su-wei clinching the match against Morita and Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-4, 6-1 in a surprisingly easy win.

Chan Yung-jan lost to Date-Krumm in the other singles after pulling out while trailing 6-1, 3-0.

Taiwan will be heavy underdogs against China in the finals Tuesday. (By Jeffrey Wu) ENDITEM/ls

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