Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Old Asian rivalries spill pitchside at Games

North Korea's Ra Un Sim attempts to get past South Korean players Lee Eun Mi right, and Hong Kyung Suk, left, during their women's soccer semi-final game in Guangzhou on Saturday. (AP)
GUANGZHOU: Political rivals clashed at the Asian Games on Saturday while there was turmoil off the pitch for the Kazakhstan hockey team when three of their players were booted out of the tournament.
Old foes North and South Korea battled for a spot in the final in a spirited women's soccer match that ended 3-1 to the reclusive North in extra time.
In the other semifinal China protested a disallowed goal in their 1-0 loss to Japan amid bilateral strains over disputed islands in the East China sea.
Over at the hockey stadium, India beat Pakistan 3-2 with drag flick specialist Sandeep Singh scoring twice for India.
Relations on the Korean peninsula sank to the lowest level in more than a decade after a South Korean warship was torpedoed earlier in the year killing 46 sailors.
In Saturday's soccer semifinal, the North took the lead with a brilliant 25-meter shot from Jo Yun-mi just before halftime.
Yoo Young-a stabbed home a cross in the 87th minute to send the game into extra time when the fitness of the north showed, with standout player Ra Un-sim scoring twice.
In the China match that ended scoreless in 90 minutes, Japan's Shinobu Ohno, who missed several golden chances, finally made amends by knocking in a parried volley from Yukari Kinga in the 108th minute to leave the home side devastated and rueing a disallowed goal just before halftime.
"The referee made a mistake," said Pang Fengyue of her disallowed goal for offside.
In other controversy on day eight of competition at the Games, which has already seen a judo doping case and a big row brew over the disqualification of a Taiwan taekwondo fighter, three Kazakh hockey players were thrown out.
They had admitted playing for Belarus at a qualifying tournament earlier this year for the 2010 World Cup.
The day's standout performance belonged to South Korean teenager Kim Woo-jin who set a 144-arrow outdoor recurve world record in the men's individual archery.
The 18-year-old Kim made a huge stride toward his sporting dream to be an "archer who remains in people's memory" by shooting 1,387 points to beat the previous world mark set by compatriot Oh Jin-hyek.
In snooker, China's world No. 7 Ding Junhui succumbed 4-2 to Hong Kong's world No. 14 Marco Fu in a tense upset where Fu capitalized on rare errors by Ding.
Fu, complete with sky-blue bowtie, was the seventh gold for the tiny former British colony that has been punching well above its weight in the medals charts.
Hong Kong lies in fifth place behind China, South Korea, Japan and Iran.
In the thrilling southeast Asian sport of sepaktakraw, a skilled game akin to volleyball but played with the feet, Thailand thrashed bitter foes Malaysia for a fourth straight Asian Games gold medal in the men's team competition.
In cycling, Mariana Mohammad crashed out in a bloody accident that marred the women's time trial. Mohammad, a 32-year-old Malaysian cyclist, had the leading intermediate time when she collided with a fence on the side of the course and cart wheeled her bike. Malaysian team officials said she had a broken collarbone and a deep cut on her chin, but was in a stable condition after treatment at the Guangdong Provincial Hospital.
Lee Min-hye went on to win the 35.6-kilometer race in 49 minutes, 38.35 seconds, giving South Korea victories in both the men's and women's time trials.
Choe Hyeong-min gave South Korea its first gold in the men's time trial in 24 years when he completed three laps of the 17.8-kilometer course in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 16.12 seconds.
South Korea swept all four gold medals at golf, including both team events. Kim Hyun-soo won the women's total at 11-under 277, while Kim Meen-whe won the men's tournament with a four-round total 15-under-par 273, nine clear of Miguel Luis Tabuena of the Philippines.
There was almost as much interest at the rear of the field, where Ali Ahmad Fazel of Afghanistan closed with a 40-over final round of 112 to finish at an endurance-testing 179 over.
Another bankable gold medal was delivered in the women's badminton final, with Wang Shixian beating Chinese teammate Wang Xin 21-18, 21-15. Indonesia won the men's doubles, with Markis Kido and Hendra Seiawan saving a championship point in the second game before rallying to beat Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong 16-21, 26-24, 21-19.
With the athletics set to begin on Sunday, names to watch include 1,500m world champion Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain and Chinese women's marathon world champion Bai Xue who will run in the 10,000m.
Organizers will be keen to ensure the event has healthy crowds with some officials decrying half-empty stadiums amid a massive security squeeze on the south Chinese city.
"Although it is said that all the tickets for the Games have been sold out, there are still a lot of empty seats," said South Korea delegation chief Lee Kee-heung.
"A lot of cheering teams can't get into the competition venue." China also celebrated Beijing being awarded the athletics world championships in 2015, returning top-flight track and field to the "Bird's Nest" stadium that Usain Bolt made famous with his sprint exploits at the 2008 Olympics.
Liu Xiang, who limped out of the "Bird's Nest" to disappoint millions at the Beijing Games, will seek a measure of redemption and a third straight Asian title in the 110m hurdles.
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