Asian Games: New shooting star fires China into life

Asian Games: New shooting star fires China into life

INCHEON, South Korea - Zhang Menyuang became China's new shooting hero Saturday as the continental giant claimed three Asian Games gold medals to quickly establish its domination in Incheon.

The 24-year-old Zhang won the women's individual 10 metre air pistol title and helped China to the team gold in a double blow to hosts South Korea, who had been favourites.

China's men also took the 50m air pistol team title, while South Korea got off the mark with one gold in wushu and India won their first title in the shooting.

The Asian Games' 9,500 athletes finally took centre stage on Saturday after the opening ceremony in Incheon, where North Korea's delegation had shared the spotlight with pop singer Psy.

The shooting accounted for the first of 439 gold medals to be decided in the South Korean city over 15 days until October 4.

Zhang is only ranked 29th in the world and China's shooting coach Wang Yifu, a previous Olympic champion, said her triumph was doubly impressive as South Korean organisers had "deliberately" arranged the 10m air pistol as the first event as they hoped for a home victory.

But South Korea's Olympic and world champion Kim Jang-Mi, who comes from Incheon, managed only seventh place.

"It was hard for us to win this medal," Wang said.

Zhang teamed up with China's double Olympic champion Guo Wenjun and Zhou Qingyuan to take the team title.

Pang Wei, Pu Qifeng and Wang Zhiwei teamed up to take the men's 50m air pistol title, while India's Jitu Rai took the individual gold.

With organisers counting on success by home stars to help fill Incheon's stadiums, South Korea got its first gold in wushu.

Lee Ha-Sung was crowned men's changquan champion in the martial art that was last year rejected as an Olympic sport. China's Wei Hong took the women's nandao event.

China gold hunt

China won 199 gold medals when it hosted the last Asian Games in 2010. That is almost certainly not possible this year as 40 fewer medals are being disputed this time.

But it has made clear that it intends to keep rivals Japan and South Korea way back in the medal rankings.

"We have been leading both medal and gold medal tables at nine straight Asian Games," said China's delegation chief Liu Peng. "We certainly want to keep winning this time." While China does not have its strongest possible delegation, it still has 33 Olympic champions in Incheon and is taking part in 35 of the 36 sports.

Liu said China's athletes had to show "fighting spirit" as well as sportsmanship.

Eighteen gold medals were to be decided Saturday including in judo, fencing, weightlifting and track cycling.

China expects plenty of titles in athletics and particularly swimming. It could see a first major clash with South Korea on Sunday when Olympic champion Sun Yang takes on local hero Park Tae-Hwan in the men's 200m freestyle.

Sun has tried to rile Park by making fun of his opponent in a Chinese television commercial. Sun has in turn only recently been allowed back into competition after a six-month ban for being caught driving his Porsche without a licence.

Outside the competition, the Olympic Council of Asia general assembly on Saturday confirmed Indonesia as host of the next Asian Games in 2018. Vietnam withdrew from hosting the event in April, saying it could no longer afford the cost.

The Games will be mainly in Jakarta, but some sports will be in other cities.

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