China swimmers sign off in style as 'Faker' gets gold and more

By AFP   September 29, 2023 | 05:51 pm PT
China swimmers sign off in style as 'Faker' gets gold and more
China's Qin Haiyang dives at the start of a race in Asian Games. Photo by AFP/Manan Vatsyayana
Qin Haiyang and Zhang Yufei ended the Asian Games swimming with a bang Friday to help hosts China surge beyond 100 golds, as South Korean gamer "Faker" won a controversial military exemption to go with his medal.

Rising tennis star Zheng Qinwen was another notable winner for China in Hangzhou on the sixth day of action, defeating compatriot Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4 to clinch the women's title.

The hosts also swept the first golds in athletics as Zhang Jun came first in the men's 20 km race walk and teammate Yang Jiayu did likewise in the women's. China also picked up golds in artistic gymnastics.

They have been especially dominant in the pool, putting in a string of performances that will not have gone unnoticed by their rivals across the globe with the Paris Olympics less than 10 months away.

On the final day of swimming, world champion Qin completed the breaststroke treble and Zhang claimed a sixth gold.

China easily topped the final swimming medals table with 28 golds. South Korea won six and Japan five.

Along with Qin and Zhang, Pan Zhanle became only the fifth man ever below 47 seconds in the 100m freestyle while China went close to smashing two relay world records.

Wang Shun clocked the seventh fastest 200m medley in history.

"Our results show that we are returning to our peak," warned Xu Jiayu, who takes home five golds.

"I believe this is a sign that there may be better things and better results to come."

Rock-star treatment

In eSports, which has been a big hit on its debut at the Games as a medal event, South Korea beat Taiwan in the League of Legends final in front of a packed crowd at the 4,500-seat Hangzhou Esports Center.

That gold put South Korean star Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok, together with his teammates, in line for an exemption from military service.

The bespectacled Lee, 27, was given the rock-star treatment and spectators shouted "Faker! Faker!" at the medal ceremony.

Any athlete from South Korea can skip full military service if they win gold at the Asian Games.

Exemptions are controversial, even more so for eSports, which is still seen by some as out of place at a major multi-sport international event.

They are also rare. Fewer than 100 exemptions for "arts and sports" were handed out last year, official statistics show.

In tennis, US Open quarter-finalist Zheng, ranked 23 in the world, can now put Games gold with her first WTA title, which she won in July in Palermo, Italy.

"I feel different because here I'm representing my country. In Palermo that was my personal achievement," said Zheng, fondly known by her growing number of fans as "Queen Wen".

China did not have it all their own way, even as they surged beyond the century mark of golds.

Japan bagged gold and silver in the men's individual triathlon thanks to Kenji Nener and Makoto Odakura.

The Japanese have also been in scintillating form across four days of track cycling, collecting three more golds on Friday.

First reported doping case

An Afghan boxer has been provisionally suspended for failing a doping test, the International Testing Agency (ITA) said, the first reported drugs case at the Games.

The 37-year-old Mohammad Khaibar Nooristani, who was defeated on Monday in the preliminary rounds of the 71kg weight class in Hangzhou, tested positive for two banned substances, the ITA said.

Both were anabolic steroids.

"The athlete has been informed of the case and has been provisionally suspended with immediate effect. He has the right to request the analysis of the B-sample," the ITA added.

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