JAKARTA: Sun Yang climbed onto the lane rope, straddling a leg on either side, and held both arms up in triumph.
After two silver medals in the 200-meter freestyle at the Asian Games, China’s greatest swimmer finally won gold in the event.
Sun, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time world champion, is targeting victories in every freestyle event from the 200- to the 1,500-meters in the Jakarta Asian Games pool and kicked off his bid with a comfortable victory in 1 minute 45.43 seconds on Sunday on the first night of finals.
It was an emotional victory for Sun, who has had to deal with some contentious periods following a three-month ban for a doping infringement in 2014 and a brush with the law following a traffic accident the previous year.
He celebrated Sunday by climbing up a tiered platform full of photographers to shake hands with his supporters in the stands.
Sun choked back tears as he returned to the pool deck with the Chinese flag in his hands.
Katsuhiro Matsumoto of Japan took silver in 1:46.50 and Ji Xinjie held off Jordan’s Khader Baqlah for bronze.
China claimed the first gold medal of the games in the morning session with Sun Peiyuan’s acrobatic victory in wushu’s changquan discipline.
Sun scored 9.75 to claim a gold medal in the same city where he won the world title in 2015, holding off local hope Edgar Marvelo and Tsai Tse-min of Taiwan.
Wushu, a Chinese martial art that was introduced to the Asian Games in 1990 and translates to “long fist,” has been something of a gold mine for China at the regional games.
“I knew if I perform well I can win the gold. So the pressure from the Indonesian athlete was mainly due to him competing in his home ground,” Sun said. “I wanted to thank everybody for the support. I am glad that I didn’t let you down.”
There are seven finals on the opening night of the swimming program and 21 overall on offer Sunday, when other finals will be held in fencing, shooting, taekwondo and wrestling.
In one of the biggest upsets of the day, Vietnam edged Japan 1-0 on Quang Hai Nguyen’s third-minute goal to top Group D in a men’s soccer tournament that has already included an upset win for Malaysia over South Korea.
Taiwan won the first of the gold medals in the co-host city of Palembang ? on the island of Sumatra and more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Jakarta ? with Lin Ying-shin and Lu Shao-chuan combining for a games record 494.1 points in the 10-meter air rifle mixed team final. China collected silver and India’s Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar took bronze.
China won the 10-meter air-pistol mixed team final from South Korea and Vietnam.
Also in Palembang, a joint Koreas rowing team finished last in the first heat of the lightweight men’s four competition behind Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Hong Kong.
South Koreans Kim Su-min and Park Tae-hyun and North Koreans Yun Chol Jin and Kim Chol Jin only started training together last month after their countries agreed to enter joint teams for three rowing events, a dragon boat crew and women’s basketball.
The South Koreans were more successful in their traditional form of martial arts, securing two of the first taekwondo poomsae medals ever awarded at the Asian Games.
Kang Min-sung beat Koorosh Bakhtiyar of Iran in the men’s individual final. South Korea won the men’s team gold medal, with China taking silver and Philippines picking up bronze.
In a wrestling upset, India’s two-time Olympic medalist Kumar Sushil was beaten by Adam Batirov in his opener in the 74-kilogram class and slumped out of medal contention when the Bahrain grappler lost in the quarterfinals. —AP