Asian Games: Skateboarders rule day, Japan grabs 9 gold medals

Japanese teenagers claimed the lion’s share of gold medals in the inaugural skateboarding competition at the Asian Games on Wednesday, highlighting a day of several top podium finishes for the country at the regional games in Indonesia.

Kensuke Sasaoka and Sakura Yosozumi took top honors in the skateboard park competition, while Keyaki Ike won the men’s street final to add a third gold, getting Japan off to a flying start before the sport makes its Summer Olympics debut in Tokyo in two years.

(Kensuke Sasaoka)

«I didn’t feel pressured. I just wanted to show everyone the way I ride,» Yosozumi said. «This has been a great experience ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.»

Japan added nine golds to its medals haul, including some firsts: top podium finishes by a woman in track cycling, Yumi Kajihara’s ominum gold, Noa Takahashi’s victory in women’s soft tennis and the men’s team cross country gold in paragliding, which is also debuting here.

Japan’s men’s soccer team booked a final against defending champion South Korea after beating the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in the semifinals.

While skateboarders, including Kaya Isa who won a pair of silvers in both park and street, turned heads, Yuki Koike reigned supreme at the athletics track, beating Taiwan’s Yang Chun-han in the men’s 200 by a hair’s breadth.

(Men’s 200 sprint)

It was the first time in three Asian Games that a Japanese won gold in the 200 sprint. Koike and Yang finished in the same time of 20.23 seconds.

«It hasn’t really sank in yet but I really gave my full power in that race, » said the 23-year-old Koike. «I was just thinking of winning and my form suffered as a result, ruining my initial race plan. I was just totally engrossed in the race.»

«This is the goal I spoke of. But now that it has become a reality, I am a little stunned, wondering if this is really true,» he added later.

The men’s 4×100 led by Ryota Yamagata and anchored by Asuka Cambridge topped final qualifying with a time of 38.20 seconds ahead of China (38.88) and Indonesia (39.03).

The 4×400 men’s team came first in their heat to qualify in a time of 3 minutes, 6.11 seconds.

Seito Yamamoto won the men’s pole vault with a games record leap of 5.70 meters, winning gold for Japan for the first time in three tournaments but for a record 11th time overall. Yuki Yamasaki took bronze in the women’s heptathlon with a personal-best score of 5,873.

Meanwhile, it was a day of mixed blessings for Japan’s judoka.

Japan’s Natsumi Tsunoda shrugged off an injured back to win a gold, scoring a convincing victory over South Korean Park Da Sol in the women’s 52-kilogram class.

Ami Kondo, the 2014 world champion, fell in the golden score to Rio Olympic silver medalist Jeong Bo Kyeong at 48 kg, while men’s judoka Toru Shishime and Joshiro Maruyama lost their respective finals, to Uzbekistan’s Diyorbek Urozboev and South Korea’s An Ba Ul at 60 kg and 66 kg.

(Natsumi Tsunoda, top)

Soft Tennis’ Takahashi won gold in women’s singles, beating Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Chu-ling 4-3. Takahashi is the first Japanese singles player to claim gold at the Asian Games since the men’s and women’s events made their debut in 2002.

«In a word, I’m happy,» Takahashi said. «Since this has been a tournament I’ve been aiming for, I haven’t quite processed (the win) yet. From here on I want to practice in order to become a natural player.»

Toshikazu Yamanishi won silver in the men’s 20-km race walk, finishing just 0.06 second behind Chinese gold medalist Wang Kaihua (1:22:04).

Also of note, world champions Ai Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka clinched the gold medal in the women’ sailing 470 ahead of their race on Friday.

All — Kyodo News+

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