The 18th Asian Games in Indonesia still has a week to go, but it will take a stunning turn to keep Japan’s teenage swim star, Rikako Ikee, from being the star of the event.
She finished off her Asian Games with a sixth gold medal, winning the 50 m Freestyle in an Asian Games 24.53, beating Liu Xiang, China’s world-record holder (in the 50 m Back), by 0.07. It gave Ikee eight medals (6-2-0) and tied her with North Korean shooter Gin Man So (8: 7-1-0) from 1982. She’s the sixth woman to win six golds in a single Asian Games in swimming.
“Pressure for me is something I thrive on,” Ikee, 18, told the Agence France Presse. “There will be a lot of Japanese fans cheering for me at the Tokyo Olympics in my home city – maybe even some from overseas too – and that’s going to give me great strength.
“The more fans that come, the stronger I’ll be. When it comes to swimming, I just really hate to lose.
“I had targeted five gold medals so I was happy to tick that box first. I can definitely swim faster. But going through this kind of experience will give me extra motivation to improve.”
Keep her name in mind as we get closer to Tokyo. But there were more highlights from the pool on the final night:
∙ Men’s 1,500 m Freestyle: Yang Sun of China won in 14:58.53, for his third straight Asian Games gold medal in the event. He’s still the world-record holder at 14:31.02 from his Olympic win in 2012 in London, but won his 14th career Asian Games medal to tie Korea’s Tae-Hwan Park (2006-10) for the most career swimming medals ever.
∙ Men’s 50 m Breaststroke: Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki completed his triple win in the 50-100-200 m Breast events with a win in 27.07, ahead of China’s Zibei Yan (27.25), who swam a Games Record 27.06 in the prelims.
∙ Women’s 400 m Freestyle: China’s Jianjiahe Wang set an Asian Games record of 4:03.18, no. 3 on the world list for 2018, completing another triple win in the 400-800-1,500 m Frees (plus a fourth gold in a relay). Her teammate, also 16 years old, Bingjie Li, was second in 4:04.46.
∙ Women’s 200 m Medley: Japan’s Yui Ohashi came in as the Pan-Pacs champ and the fastest swimmer in the world this year in the event, but Korea’s Seo-Yeong Kim won the race in a Games record time of 2:08.34. Kim moves to no. 2 on the 2018 world list with the time.
China finished off the meet with the world’s best time in 2018 for the men’s 4×100 m Medley in 3:29.99, just ahead of Japan (3:30.03). China’s Jiayu Xu won his fifth gold on the relay; he’s the second man to win five swimming golds at a single Asian Games, after Jianqiang Shen in 1990. With a silver in the final relay, Ryosuke Irie (JPN) also won a 14th career swimming medal at the Asian Games.
The Japanese finished the meet with 52 total medals in swimming to 50 for China and each won 19 golds. Beyond Ikee’s brilliance, the meet also featured a world record of 26.98 by Xiang in the 50 m Backstroke and 21 Asian Games marks, plus one tie.
Elsewhere at the Games, the Athletics competition started with modest performances; the best included:
∙ India’s Tajinderpal Singh Toor’s Games record of 20.75 m (68-1) in the men’s Shot;
∙ China’s Bingtian Su won the men’s 100 m impressively in 9.92, also an Asian Games record, and
∙ Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun won the men’s 400 m in 44.89 and Salwa Eid Naser (BRN) won the women’s 400 m in an Asian Games record of 50.09.
In weightlifting, Iran’s Sohrab Moradi set a world record of 189 kg in the Snatch in the 94 kg class on his way to a gold medal in the event. The Snatch lift surpassed the 188 kg mark by Akakios Kakiavilis (GRE) from 1999.
The men’s and women’s road cycling events were unusual in that one man and one woman won both the Time Trial and the Road Race! Ahreum Na (KOR) took the women’s 20 km Time Trial and 100 km Road Race, while Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ) triumphed in the 40 km Time Trial and the 150 km Road Race.
Halfway through the Games, China continues to run away with the overall count at 178 (78-60-40), with Japan second (124: 40-34-50) and Korea third (96: 28-31-37).