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Asian Games: Ota foils his way to gold, Kawabata takes his cue.

DOHA, Dec. 9 Kyodo

Surprise performances in fencing and the pool hall put the gilt on a day of largely silver linings for Japan at the 15th Asian Games on Saturday, with Yuki Ota taking the men's foil title and Satoshi Kawabata later pocketing gold in the men's eight-ball singles.

Highlighting the extremes of the continent's athletic wealth and resources, it was also a day when Sri Lanka won its first medal of the Games and China breezed past the 100 gold-medal mark.

In the day's first event, China's Zhou Chunxiu led from the start to win gold in the women's marathon in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 3 seconds, while Kiyoko Shimahara and Kayoko Obata took silver and bronze in 2:30:34 and 2:30:38 in a field of just 10 athletes.

Japan got the first of its three golds of the day when Makoto Sasamoto beat China's Sheng Jiang 2-1 to clinch the men's Greco-Roman 60-kilogram title. The Japanese national champion was outscored 4-0 in the first period but wrenched his way back to take the next two periods 4-1, 4-3 and add the gold to the bronze he won four years ago in Busan.

Later, Ota outpointed Lee Cheon Woong of South Korea 15-8 to take the gold medal in the men's individual foil. Trailing 6-5, Ota scored six consecutive points on his way to winning Japan's first medal in the men's foil since Yoshihide Nagano took silver at the 1994 Games in Hiroshima.

And in the last gold-medal event of the day, Kawabata beat Antonio Gabica of the Philippines 9-7 to take the men's eight-ball pool singles title.

But Japan's synchronized swimmers missed out on gold for a second day as they were outscored by China in the inaugural team title at the Asian Games and had to settle for silver, a day after their shock defeat in the duet. Led by duet gold-winning twins Jiang Tingting and Jiang Wenwen, China garnered 96.584 points, 0.500 clear of Japan, with North Korea taking bronze with 86.500.

The Japanese were outpointed by China 48.000 to 47.917 in the technical routine earlier in the day and then 48.584 to 48.167 in the free routine, as China took its 100th gold medal at the Doha Games.

In track and field, Japanese sprinter Naoki Tsukahara won silver in the men's 100 meters, just behind Saudi Arabia's Yahya Hassan Habeeb in a photo-finish at the Khalifa Stadium. Tsukahara clocked 10.34 seconds, just 0.02 off Habeeb, who won with a time of 10.32.

In the men's high jump, Naoyuki Daigo won bronze after clearing a mark of 2.23 meters on his third attempt, below his personal best of 2.33 meters. Jean Claude Rabbath of Lebanon won the gold after producing the same mark at the first asking, while the silver went to Kazak Sergey Zassimovich after none of the remaining three could clear 2.27. Japan's Hikaru Tsuchiya bowed out after failing to nail 2.23 after three tries and finished in sixth.

In the women's javelin, Yuki Ebihara went 57.47 meters on her final effort, not enough to nudge her into second place but good enough for bronze and beating her previous personal best of 56.57. Thailand's Buoban Pamang won gold with a new personal mark of 61.31, followed by Ma Ning of China with 57.53.

In the women's 100 meters, Japan's Momoko Takahashi (11.85) and Saori Kitakaze (11.94) could only manage sixth and seventh. Guzel Khubbieva of Uzbekistan won gold in 11.27 and Susanthika Jayasinghe grabbed the silver to put Sri Lanka on the medal board.

Earlier in the women's heptathlon, Yuki Nakata just missed out on a bronze by finishing fourth overall, as Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan won gold and Soma Biswas and JJ Shobha took silver and bronze for India.

On the opening day of the track races in cycling, Japan's Yusho Oikawa won the silver medal in the men's 1-kilomter time trial, finishing behind China's Feng Yong who took the gold in a meet record. Oikawa clocked 1 minute, 4.775 seconds while Feng was timed 0.168 faster, with South Korea's Kang Kong Jin taking bronze in 1:04.786.

In the men's individual pursuit, Taiji Nishitani secured a spot in Sunday's final against Jang Sun Jae of South Korea after producing the second fastest mark in the qualifying race. Jang set an Asian Games record of 4:30.355, to Nishitani's 4:36.763, in the 4,000-meter event.

In the women's 500-meter time trial final, however, Japan's Sakiko Numabe narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth in 37.415 seconds, as China's Guo Shuang took gold in 35.175, while Taiwan's Hsiao Mei-yu and South Korea's You Jin A took silver and bronze.

But there was more silver for Japan in the rhythmic gymnastics when Yukari Murata, Sayaka Nakano, Yuria Onuki and Ai Yokochi combined to seize second place in the final with 144.75 points, having missed out on a medal four years ago in Busan. Kazakhstan won the gold for the first time with 148.600 to deny bronze winner China (142.775) a second straight title.

In women's field hockey, Japan beat India 2-0 for a record of four wins and one draw and need only draw their next match against Hong Kong on Monday to reach the final and qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Japanese men's team had earlier whipped Hong Kong 12-1 in a preliminary round game.

On the golf course, first-round joint leader Mika Miyazato of Japan dropped to second place after two rounds of the women's tournament. Miyazato added a 68 to her opening 66, while South Korea's Ryu So Yeon took sole possession of the lead after shooting her second straight 66. Tseng Ya-ni of Taiwan is third, three shots behind the leader.

In the women's team competition, South Korea reached the halfway point with a two-shot advantage over Japan, with Taiwan six strokes off the pace.

South Korea's Kim Do Hoon took the men's lead at 134 after a second-round 65, followed by Taiwan's Pan Cheng-tsung at 137 and Japan's Yuki Ito at 138. In the men's team, the South Koreans are two shots in front of Taiwan in second and seven ahead of Japan in third.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Dec 11, 2006
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