Jakarta: Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling brushed aside two years of indifferent form to break the Chinese-Japanese duopoly on the Asian Games swimming gold medals with victory in the 100 metres butterfly on Wednesday.
Sun Yang was unable to add to his three Jakarta crowns in the 4x100m freestyle relay and Rikako Ikee, who has won four titles, was similarly frustrated in the mixed 4x100-metre medley relay to leave China and Japan tied on 14 golds apiece.
Schooling upstaged no less than Michael Phelps to win the butterfly event at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and was desperate to be back in the winners’ circle at a major meet after coming home from last year’s world championships with a bronze.
Hitting the turn with a clear lead over China’s Li Zhuhao, the 23-year-old powered to the finish in 51.04 seconds to retain the title he won as a teenager in Incheon four years ago.
“It’s all about standing up for your country and yourself and trying to get your hand on the wall first, I’m happy,” said Schooling, who later won a bronze in the sprint relay.
“I had some jitters before, but that’s good, it shows I’m taking nothing for granted. The result was good, I’m happy overall. Every gold is special, it has its own story.”
On the badminton court, China failed to snatch their sixth consecutive gold medal in women’s badminton team event after losing to top-seeded Japan 3-1 in the 18th Asian Games final.
Top singles player Chen Yufei propelled China to a leading position through her 21-15, 21-12 victory over Yamaguchi Akane.
Yufei took charge from the start with her high-quality smashes to build a 4-0 lead, and from an 11-all draw at the changeover, she pulled away. The proceedings became easier for Chen in the second game, as she stood firm to earn China a morale-boosting opening victory.
In response, Japan’s Fukushima Yuki and Hirota Sayaka marched past Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan 21-12, 21-17.
The second singles match had greater importance. He Bingjiao of China lost 16-21, 21-19, 15-21 to Japanese Okuhara Nozomi. Bingjiao survived an injury scare in defending a stroke during the second game. She returned to court after a medical check, and went on to savour the victory of 21-19.
In their debut at the tournament, Huang Dongping and Zheng Yu lost to Olympic champions Matsutomo Misaki and Takahashi Ayaka 21-16, 21-11 as Japan clinched the final 3-1.
Hosts Indonesia and Thailand bagged the bronze medals.