China sweeps through gold medals on Asian Games opening day
China has dominated the Asian Games for the last 40 years, and the 2023 edition will be the same.
The host country won 20 gold medals — 30 overall — on Sunday, just hours after Saturday's opening ceremony overseen by President Xi Jinping and watched by 80,000 at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium.
The first gold medal of the games went to the Chinese pair of Zhou Jiaqi and Qiu Xinping in women's lightweight double sculls. The Chinese rolled from there and many are already looking ahead to next year's Olympics in Paris.
"Stepping on to the podium today is a new starting point," Qiu said. "To prepare for next year's Paris Olympics with all our strength is equivalent to starting from scratch."
Added teammate Zhou: "This can help us build self-confidence and help us prepare."
Two other gold medals on the first day went to Hong Kong, in men's pairs in rowing, and in men's individual foil in fencing.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has come under increasingly tight control from Beijing following months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.
China won gold in modern pentathlon (2), artistic gymnastics (1), rowing (6), shooting (2), wushu (2) and swimming (7).
Zhang Yufei won the women's 200 butterfly, the same event she won two months ago at the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
"I actually felt the pool was a little slow for me," she said. "And I told my coach that I wasn't feeling in good form or I could have gone faster."
Wang Shun took the men's 200 IM, and Li Bingjie won the women's 1,500.
South Korea won five gold medals on the first day and 14 overall to trail China in second place. South Korea won two gold medals in modern pentathlon, two more in taekwondo, and one in fencing.
Japan had two gold and 14 overall, just behind South Korea.
The only other gold medals on the first day went to Taiwan and Uzbekistan.
China won almost 300 medals — 132 gold — five years ago in the Asian Games in Indonesia with Japan and South Korea the main challengers.
Host nations traditionally get a homefield "medal bump," so China's dominance this time could be more overwhelming than usual.
The Asian Games feature 12,500 participants from 45 nations and territories. Next year's Olympics will involve about 10,500 from more about 200 delegations.
Cricket is prominent in the Asian Games, and India and Sri Lanka will face off on Monday for the gold in the women's game. The earlier bronze medal game matches Bangladesh against Pakistan.
The men's final is Oct. 7, and many expect a final between old rivals Pakistan and India.