China off to golden start on first day of Asian Games

(From left) Silver medalist team India's Ramita, Mehuli Ghosh, Ashi Chouksey, gold medalist team China's Jiayu Han, Yuting Huang, Zhilin Wang and bronze medalist team Mongolia's Narantuya Chuluunbadrakh, Yesugen Oyunbat, Nandinzaya Ganhuyag pose with their medals during the awards ceremony of the women's 10-meter air rifle team final at the Fuyang Yinhu Sports Centre in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

HANGZHOU, China (AFP): The first gold medals at the Asian Games were all won by host nation China on Sunday in rowing, shooting and wushu after President Xi Jinping opened the two-week multisport extravaganza in a colourful ceremony.

China claimed the first gold when Zou Jiaqi and Qiu Xiuping dominated the women's lightweight double sculls rowing final to kick off an expected medal rush for the hosts in Hangzhou.

The Chinese pair finished in 7min 6.78sec, with Uzbekistan's Luizakhon Islamova and Malika Tagmativa taking silver, almost 10 seconds behind.

"I am very excited as it's my first Asian Games," said Zou, clutching her gold medal.

"Stepping on to the podium today is a new starting point to help us prepare for next year's Paris Olympics," said Qiu.

Indonesia's Chelsea Corputty and Rahma Mutiara Putri won bronze at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre.

The hosts then doubled up on the rowing lake as the men's lightweight double sculls gold was won by Fan Junjie and Sun Man, who finished five seconds clear of India's Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh.

Uzbekistan's Shakhzod Nurmatov and Sobirjon Safaroliyev took bronze.

China's shooters made it a golden hat-trick soon after when they claimed the women's 10m team air rifle.

China's perfect start continued as Sun Peiyuan won the first martial arts gold.

Sun successfully defended his men's changquan wushu title from 2018, ahead of Indonesia's Edgar Xavier Marvelo with Macau's Song Chi-Kuan third.

"I feel very happy to win the gold medal in China, near my home town," said Sun. "I'm so very excited, I'm lost for words."

Medals are up for grabs in nine sports on day one of the 19th Asian Games, with China expected to top the overall medals table by the time the action closes on October 8.

- Swimming to make splash -

Swimming is one of the highlights of the Games and will see seven finals later on Sunday at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre Aquatic Sports Arena, where China are also expected to dominate.

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zhang Yufei will defend her title for China in the 200m butterfly.

Breakout Chinese freestyler Pan Zhanle faces a fellow young starlet, Korean sensation Hwang Sun-woo, in one of the blue-riband events, the men's 100m.

And Chinese Olympic men's 200m individual medley champion Wang Shun will be looking to bounce back after failing to make the final in the recent world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Women's cricket giants India and Pakistan are both in semi-final action on Sunday with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka respectively standing in their way of reaching Monday's final in the Twenty20 competition.

Other sports beginning their campaigns on Sunday include boxing, rugby sevens, hockey and the wildly popular eSports -- where superstars such as South Korea's "Faker" are expected to draw capacity crowds for its debut as a full Asian Games medal event.

President Xi officially opened the Games on Saturday night after a delay of a year because of China's now-abandoned zero-Covid policy.

With more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories, the Asian Games has more participants than the Olympics.

They will battle for medals in 40 sports across 54 venues.

Most events take place in Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people near Shanghai, but some sports are being staged in cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometres (180 miles) to the south. - AFP

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Asian Games , Great Start , Host China


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