Mon, Feb 20, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Asian Winter Games begin in Japan

AP, SAPPORO, Japan

The Asian Winter Games yesterday officially got under way with an opening ceremony that united winter athletes from the world’s most populous continent.

Among the dignitaries present at the Sapporo Dome were Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito, International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates and Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad Al Sabah.

With the Winter Olympics just more than a year away, the continent’s leading winter athletes will use the Games to fine tune for Pyeongchang 2018.

The Games run through Sunday and feature more than 2,000 athletes from 31 countries competing in five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.

The Japanese government allowed North Korean athletes and officials to enter the country to take part in the Games, despite Japan’s entry ban on North Korean citizens.

The Games are also to feature athletes from Australia and New Zealand, bringing an Oceania element to event.

At the request of the Australian Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, the Sapporo organizing committee agreed to allow athletes from the two countries to take part as guest athletes in individual sports only.

They will not be eligible to win medals, but will gain experience by competing against world-class winter sports athletes from the region an in the time zone that will be the same as the Olympics.

Eri Yanetani of Japan won the first gold medal in the women’s snowboard giant slalom.

Yanetani took top honors with a combined time of 1 minute, 43.47 seconds after two runs.

China’s Zang Ruxin was second, 2.23 seconds back, while Gong Naiying, also of China, was third with a time of 1 minute, 45.81 seconds.

Lee Sang-ho of South Korea won the men’s event with a time of 1 minute, 35.76 seconds to edge compatriot Choi Bo-gun by just 0.68 seconds.

Shinnosuke Kamino of Japan was third in 1 minute, 37.14 seconds.

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