JAKARTA: A day after a combined Koreas crew in women’s dragon boat won a historic bronze medal, a women’s crew in the same sport upgraded to gold at the Asian Games.
The crew comprising South Koreans and North Koreans won the 500-meter dragon boat final on Sunday at Palembang, which is co-hosting the Asian Games with the capital, Jakarta.
A women’s crew won the bronze in the 200-meter final on Saturday, and joined together to sing a popular folk song “Arirang.”
At the medal ceremony on Sunday, the “unification” flag was to be raised into the top position with the adopted anthem played during the medal presentations.
These are the first medals for a combined team from North Korea and South Korea at a major multi-sport international event.
And rather than being added to the tally of either nation, the gold was awarded to Korea ? the name given to the combined teams that are entered in rowing, canoeing and women’s basketball.
The Koreas, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, have fielded 60 athletes in combined teams in the three sports along with larger contingents for their respective national squads.
Athletes from both countries paraded into the opening ceremony together last weekend behind the “unification” flag, which features the outline of the peninsula in blue on a white background. It took a week to reap the medals, a big achievement considering the joint crews only had three weeks to prepare for the games.
In the 500, the Koreans finished the six-team final in 2 minutes, 24.788 seconds to hold off China and Thailand.
And there was more gold for the Koreas with the combined women’s basketball team reaching the semifinals with a 106-63 win over Thailand.
South and North Korea have entered joint teams in previous international events, starting with the 1991 table tennis world championships, and more recently at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The women’s ice hockey team at the Olympics had huge support despite losing all of its games, and inspired more cooperation.
The Korea’s women’s basketball team, featuring nine South Koreans and three from the North, will play Taiwan in the semifinals, with the winner advancing to the gold-medal game. Taiwan beat the Koreas by two points in the group stage last week.
Track and field competition entered a second day with World champion Rose Chelimo winning women’s marathon for Bahrain in a hot and humid race.
The Kenya-born Chelimo had a big lead by the 30-kilometer mark and won in 2 hours, 34 minutes and 51 seconds.
Chelimo represented Kenya internationally before switching to represent Bahrain ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She won the world championships title in London last year.
Keiko Nogami held off North Korea’s Kim Hye Song for silver, finishing more than 1minutes behind Chelimo.
The final of the men’s 100 meters is among the finals in track on Sunday night. -AP