HANGZHOU: Hosts China won the first eSports gold medal in the 72-year history of the Asian Games on Tuesday as Hong Kong swimmer Siobhan Haughey issued another warning for next year’s Paris Olympics. Gaming is making its debut as a medal event in Hangzhou in what is seen as a major step towards Olympic status one day. Audiences of overwhelmingly young spectators have packed out the 4,500-capacity Hangzhou Esports Center in the hope of catching one of their heroes, especially South Korea’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
He will lead the Koreans in League of Legends—and controversially earn an exemption from military service if they win gold. Medals are up for grabs in seven gaming titles, with China grabbing the first gold when they defeated Malaysia in the final of smartphone game Arena of Valor. Malaysia take home silver and Thailand bronze. “The audience who loves eSports and the veterans in the eSports industry have been looking forward to this for a long time,” China’s captain Luo Siyuan said after his team’s historic victory. “I believe that eSports will develop more and more in the future.”
Underlining just how popular eSports is at the Games, it is the only competition in Hangzhou where tickets were allocated through an initial online lottery. China’s place in the Games record books helped the home nation increase their overall tally of golds to 53 at the end of three days of action. They are way ahead of South Korea (14 golds), Japan (eight) and Uzbekistan and Hong Kong (both five). Haughey fires warning With the 2024 Paris Olympics just 10 months away, Haughey won her second gold of the Games in another impressive performance in the pool which will make her rivals sit up and take notice.
She shattered her own Asian record to add the Games 100m freestyle title to her Olympic and world silver medals. The 25-year-old produced an exceptional swim on Monday to crush the pack by nearly two seconds and take out the 200m crown, smashing an Asian Games record that had stood since 2010. She was fired up again over the shorter distance in blasting a 52.17sec to send a warning to Australian freestylers Mollie O’Callaghan and Emma McKeon. “I haven’t swum a best time since Tokyo (Olympics in 2021), but I knew I had the ability of going faster,” said Haughey.
“I’m really glad that I could do it here at the Asian Games and break the Asian record. It just proves that I’m not at my peak yet and hopefully I can keep going and keep swimming faster. “Me and my coach, we’re really prepared for Paris, and if I just keep doing what I’m doing right now, I’ll be ready,” she added. Haughey previously set an Asian record of 52.27 when she came second to McKeon at the Tokyo Olympics. Only world champion O’Callaghan has gone faster in 2023. China again bossed the Hangzhou pool, taking four of the six golds on the night.
The other went to Tomoru Honda, who stunned exhausted Japanese team-mate Daiya Seto in the 400m medley. China rack up more golds On another day of dominance, China’s all-powerful table tennis squad swept past rivals Japan 3-0 in the women’s team final. They also claimed men’s team gold over South Korea by the same scoreline. In artistic gymnastics, Zhang Boheng won gold in the men’s all-around final. But China were dethroned by Japan in the men’s team sprint at the Chun’an Jieshou Sports Centre Velodrome on the first day of action on the cycling track.
Japanese rider Yoshitaku Nagasako said his team thrived on the partisan crowd. “When I heard ‘China’ I just thought ‘Japan’. So the crowd was amazing,” he said. “I’m really proud to win this one.” China’s women made no mistake in their team sprint final, beating South Korea to the title. In other action, Hong Kong retained their men’s rugby sevens title when they beat South Korea 14-7 in the final, as hosts China won the women’s gold. – AFP