Mon, Oct 06, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Heroes, villains and Kim Jong-un leave Asiad mark

AFP, INCHEON, South Korea

If one athlete personified the good, the bad and the plain ludicrous of the Asian Games in South Korea, it was China’s bad boy swimmer Sun Yang.

Failed doping tests, ham-fisted bureaucracy and judging scandals all reared their ugly heads at the multisport event, the constant trickle of controversy providing a reminder that for every modern sports hero, a villain of the piece often lurks.

However, Sun, who struts out for races in gold earphones, neatly encapsulated the topsy-turvy Asiad by almost provoking a diplomatic incident before redeeming himself with a cheesy charm offensive.

The hulking Olympic champion, recently suspended after a road accident in his Porsche while driving without a license, called Japan’s national anthem “ugly.” He had to apologize two days later, when damage control became necessary to avoid fallout.

Japanese swimmer Naoya Tomita got himself booted out of the Games for stealing a journalist’s camera. Furious Japanese officials left him in the hands of local police and ordered him to pay his own way home. He eventually got away with a US$950 dollar fine and fled.

Women’s hammer thrower Zhang Wenxiu of China was one of six athletes to fail drugs tests at the Games and one of two gold medalists, along with Malaysian wushu champion Tai Cheau Xuen.

Sports federations were not immune from blame.

In an event involving 9,500 athletes from 45 countries and territories, the decision to order female basketball players to remove their Islamic hijab headscarves sparked a storm and Qatar’s ladies quit the tournament in protest.

Boxing judges also came under fire after several results went in favour of South Korean athletes despite taking a pummelling.

North Korea left their mark, setting five world records in weightlifting while their women’s soccer team also won gold. All thanked their “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-un for his warm love and wise instruction.

They were beaten in extra time by South Korea in the men’s final.

There were rows at the athletics too, with Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet farcically stripped of steeplechase gold as the 17-year-old was about to receive her medal, only to be restored as champion the next day after furious protests.

However, spare a thought for South Korea’s swim hero Park Tae-hwan, the former Olympic champion who froze at a pool named after him, but proved himself a class act. Japanese swimming sensation Kosuke Hagino, who was named the games MVP after winning seven medals, including four golds, revealed that Park had given him a lift in his car when the bus failed to turn up to take athletes to the pool.

Anti-hero Sun had bet poster-boy Park that the loser in Incheon should buy the winner a barbecue meal. Sun displayed his soft side at the end of competition, bringing a birthday cake to the poolside for Park and smearing cream on his face in a public show of affection. It was that sort of Games.

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