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Park, Kitajima out to halt Chinese juggernaut at Asiad

14 listopada, 2010

Four-time Olympic champion swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and South Korean superstar Park Tae-Hwan made their Guangzhou debuts as the pair look to halt the Chinese Asian Games juggernaut.

China dominated the opening day of action and while more of the same is expected over coming days, Japan and South Korea have other ideas.

The hosts won another gold on the cycling track on Sunday but Japan clawed one back when Yuichi Hosoda won the men\'s triathlon, completing the 1.5km swim, 40km bike race and 10km run in 1hr 52min 13sec.

And it was the Koreans who came good on the shooting ranges, winning three-out-of-three gold.

Thirty-five titles are on the line on Sunday with Kitajima and Park spearheading Japan and South Korea\'s hunt in the pool.

Park, who won seven medals at the 2006 Asian Games, easily qualified for the final of the 200m freestyle to set up a showdown with Chinese rival Zhang Lin, although it was China\'s Sun Yang who was fastest through the heats.

"I think the final will be a good race to watch," said Park. "Zhang Lin and Sun Yang are wonderful swimmers and are in good form."

Kitajima is aiming for a third straight Asian Games 100-200m breaststroke double since Busan 2002 when he won the 200m with a world record.

He is also competing over 50m here and qualified for the final later in the day in fifth, behind fastest qualifier Li Xiayan of China.

"I will do my best to win for the Japanese team and beat out big rivals Japan," he said.

China and Japan are trying to outdo each other in the pool after they were locked at 16 gold medals apiece at the Doha Games with South Korea trailing in a distant third.

They beat Japan 4-2 on the opening day to give then an edge leading into Sunday\'s six gold medal events.

More top level action will be seen at the weightlifting arena with Asians dominant in the men\'s 62kg category, with North Korea\'s Kim Un-Guk winning the world title in Turkey recently.

He defeated Chinese world record holder Zhang Lie by 5kg and their rematch will be a highlight.

The women\'s 53kg showdown should also be a classic with two former world champions and the current Olympic champion in action -- China\'s Li Ping, Kazakh Zulfiya Chinshanlo and Thailand\'s Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon.

On the track, China won the men\'s team sprint, beating holders Japan into second, then immediately set their sights on a medal at the London Olympics.

"It\'s our dream to win this gold medal because Japan are very strong opposition, but we were better today," said Cheng Changsong, who rode the first lap for the Chinese, silver winners in Doha four years ago.

Other medals will be decided Sunday in billiard sports, dance sport, equestrian, gymnastics, judo, shooting, soft tennis, and wushu.

While fans have turned up to the swimming, weightlifting and shooting in numbers, other venues have been mostly bare despite Guangzhou having a teeming population of at least 10 million.

This was evident at cricket\'s international debut in China on Saturday, with a just a smattering of spectators despite claims that all tickets had been sold out.

"Frankly, we don\'t know what happpened, but we are trying to find out," Asian Cricket Council spokesman Shahriar Khan told AFP.

"It was definitely not a nice feeling to see empty stands for what was a historic moment."

Despite this, International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge talked up Guangzhou\'s ability to host the Olympics.

"Guangzhou definitely has the skill to do that," he said when asked about the southern metropolis one day hosting the summer Games.