Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Liu makes smooth Asian Games debut

(UN)FAIR PLAY:There was more controversy in the velodrome after South Korea’s Park was relegated as he was adjudged to have cut in front of another rider

AFP, GUANGZHOU, CHINA

Liu Xiang of China, center, takes a hurdle ahead of Jamras Rittidet of Thailand, left, and Rohollah Asgari Ganmani of Iran, right, in the men’s 110m hurdles heats in the athletics competition at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

China’s Liu Xiang lit up the Asian Games yesterday with his long-awaited debut in the 110m hurdles, but it was teammate Lao Yi who stole the show by winning the coveted 100m title.

Liu’s presence, 27 months on from his calamitous outing at the Beijing Olympics, guaranteed a 75,000-capacity sell-out at the Aota Main stadium and he did not disappoint.

The former Olympic champion and world record holder cruised through his heat in 13.48 seconds with his coaches believing 13.30 seconds should be enough to win the gold medal tomorrow.

“I felt good, I was relaxed at the finishing line,” said one of China’s biggest sports stars, who has yet to recover the form he showed before the Achilles tendon injury that ruined his Beijing Olympic dream.

“I expect to run [the final] in 13.20. I’ll try my best,” he said.

While the focus was on Liu, Lao came from nowhere to win the men’s 100m crown in 10.24 seconds, making the most of Asian record holder Samuel Francis of Qatar being disqualified from his semi-final earlier in the evening.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir al-Nashri won silver with Oman’s Barakat al-Harthi taking bronze.

Japan’s Chisato Fukushima clinched the women’s 100m in 11.33 seconds, ahead of Kazakhstan’s Guzel Khubbieva, the defending champion, and Vietnam’s Vu Thi Huong.

Other track titles went to Kazakh Olga Tereshkova in the women’s 400m, while Qatar’s Nigerian-born Femi Ogunode took men’s gold over the same distance.

The field events were dominated by China with Olympic bronze medalist Zhang Wenxiu defending her women’s hammer title and Yang Yansheng clearing 5.50m for men’s pole vault honors.

Their successes ramped the hosts’ gold medal tally up to 154 with South Korea on 60 and Japan on 31. Iran are next best on 12.

The day was also notable for 1,500m world champion Youssef Saad Kamel failing to get through the heats. The Kenyan-born athlete blamed it on injury.

“I got an injury on my right knee in June. I told my team officials, but they didn’t listen to me,” he said. “They pushed me to come here and that’s why I’m here. I can’t achieve anything with an injury.”

Hong Kong added to their haul when veteran cyclist Wong Kam Po won the men’s individual road race in controversial circumstances.

South Korea’s Park Sung-baek pipped the reigning champion to the line, but was adjudged to have swerved in front of him at a crucial moment and after lengthy deliberations was relegated to 19th.

Japan’s Takashi Miyazawa claimed silver and China’s Zou Rongxi the bronze.

Meanwhile, China’s all--conquering divers hit the water with Shi Tingmao and Wang Han taking gold in the women’s 3m synchronized springboard and Yang Liguang and Zhou Luxin winning the men’s 10m synchronized platform. Despite winning, Shi wasn’t entirely happy.

“We need to work more and I hope we can do better in future events,” she said.

On the soccer field, North Korea face Japan for gold in a repeat of the 2006 women’s soccer final, which the Koreans won on penalties.

The majority of fans at the Tianhe Stadium are likely to get behind North Korea because of close ties between China and its communist ally, as well as the fierce rivalry between Japan and China.

South Korea beat China 2-0 in the bronze medal match.

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