HANGZHOU: Hosts China swept the first gold medals at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Sunday in a statement of intent on day one of the region’s answer to the Olympics.
China claimed the first gold when Zou Jiaqi and Qiu Xiuping dominated the women’s lightweight double sculls rowing to kick off a medal rush for the home nation.
The Chinese pair finished in 7min 6.78sec, with Uzbekistan’s Luizakhon Islamova and Malika Tagmativa taking silver — almost 10 seconds behind.
“I am very excited as it’s my first Asian Games,” said Zou, clutching her gold medal.
“Stepping on to the podium today is a new starting point to help us prepare for next year’s Paris Olympics,” said Qiu.
Indonesia’s Chelsea Corputty and Rahma Mutiara Putri won bronze.
The hosts soon doubled up on the rowing lake as the men’s lightweight double sculls gold was won by Fan Junjie and Sun Man, who finished five seconds clear of India’s Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh.
China won six of the seven golds at the Fuyang Water Sports Center rowing venue on Sunday morning with only Hong Kong’s Lam San-tung and Wong Wai-chun getting in on the party by winning the men’s pairs.
China’s shooters also claimed the women’s 10m team air rifle.
The hosts’ rip-roaring start to the 19th Asian Games, which end on October 8, continued as Sun Peiyuan won the first martial arts gold.
Sun successfully defended his men’s changquan wushu title from 2018, ahead of Indonesia’s Edgar Xavier Marvelo with Macau’s Song Chi-kuan third.
“I’m so very excited, I’m lost for words,” said Sun.
China won 10 of the first 11 golds in the early action on Sunday.
Swimming is one of the highlights of the Games and will see seven finals later on Sunday at the Hangzhou Olympic Center Aquatic Sports Arena, where China are also expected to dominate.
Triple breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang upstaged Olympic gold medallist Wang Shun in the morning heats to qualify fastest for the men’s 200m individual medley final.
Qin burst on to the scene at the July world championships in Fukuoka, becoming the first man in history to sweep all three breaststroke titles and also setting a new world record in the 200m.
Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Zhang Yufei, also from the host nation, fired off a warning shot of her own with a dominant 200m butterfly swim, touching more than three seconds clear of teammate Yu Liyan and Japan’s Airi Mitsui.
South Korean sensation Hwang Sun-woo got the better of breakout Chinese freestyler Pan Zhanle in their 100m heat, though China’s Wang Haoyu qualified fastest in 48.13.
Elsewhere, India’s women cricketers ripped through Bangladesh, dismissing them for just 51 in the first semifinal.
They knocked off their target in just 8.2 overs and will face either Pakistan or Sri Lanka in Monday’s final of the Twenty20 competition.
Other sports beginning on Sunday include boxing, rugby sevens, hockey and the wildly popular eSports — where superstars such as South Korea’s “Faker” are expected to draw huge crowds for its debut as a full Asian Games medal event.
President Xi Jinping opened the Games on Saturday night after a delay of a year because of China’s now-abandoned zero-COVID policy.
With more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories, the Asian Games has more participants than the Olympics.
They will battle for medals in 40 sports across 54 venues.
Most events take place in Hangzhou, a city of 12 million people near Shanghai, but some sports are being staged in cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometers (180 miles) to the south.