Dubai: Men’s and women’s team favourites Kazakhstan and China made it safely through the opening day of the water polo competition at the 9th Asian Swimming Championships here on Monday.
While the Chinese women cruised through their first encounter at the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Sports Complex, obliterating India 40-1, the men from Kazakhstan had a tougher time of it. Taking on Japan in their Pool B clash, the Kazakh team were truly tested but managed to keep control for a 10-9 victory.
“In Asia, China, Japan and Kazakhstan are all neck and neck and there is very keen and close competition between the teams,” said the Asia Swimming Federation (AASF) Technical Director for water polo, Katsumi Kuroda.
“It will be interesting to see how this tournament develops as all the teams have their different strategies in building their teams to try to qualify for the next Olympic Games in 2016.”
In other men’s matches on the day, Saudi Arabia went down 8-4 to Uzbekistan before later losing 16-2 to China. China also defeated Sri Lanka 26-2 and Thailand overcame Hong Kong 12-4.
In the women’s competition, aside from China’s massive win over India, Kazakhstan beat Hong Kong 34-0 and Uzbekistan beat Singapore 13-3.
In the day’s big game in the men’s competition between Kazakhstan and Japan, it was the Kazakhs who were the first to make an impact on the scoreboard, taking a 1-0 lead in the second minute. Japan came back with a penalty goal thanks to Koji Takei, but Kazakhstan proved too powerful for the Japanese keeper, scoring two unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead.
With just 29 seconds to go in the first quarter, Keigo Okawa’s looping shot found the back of the net for Japan to pull one back and go into the first break on 3-2.
The second quarter belonged to Japan, who were more creative and confident in their attack. While Kazakhstan scored the opening two goals of the period, three unanswered goals later on saw Japan levelling the score and going into the half-time break at 5-5.
The Japanese confidence seemed to dwindle in the third quarter, however, as Kazakhstan once again took control with three early goals — Rustam Ukumanov completing his hat-trick with the second of these.
Kan Irei finally managed to stop the flow of goals, pulling one back for Japan to get back in contention, and a great strike from Takei to complete his hat-trick saw the Japanese close the gap even further. Kazakhstan’s Ukumanov managed to get one more in for his team before the third break though, taking the score to 9-7 going into the final quarter.
While Japan had the better of the scoreboard in the final quarter, scoring two goals to Kazakhstan’s one, it was not enough to close the gap on the reigning Asian champions.
Tickets to the action are available at the entrance to the Hamdan Complex on Dubai Bypass Road and cost Dh20 for the day. Children under 12 can enter free of charge.