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Gold medallist China's Zhang Yufei (centre) celebrates with silver medallist Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey (left) and bronze medallist China's Cheng Yujie during the medals ceremony for the women's 50m freestyle swimming event during the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Hangzhou: Asian Games poster-girl Zhang Yufei pipped Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey in a thrilling sprint for the 50 metres freestyle gold medal on Thursday while former Olympic champion Ye Shiwen turned back the clock to claim a breaststroke title.

Home favourite Zhang, better known for her butterfly prowess, posted a time of 24.26 seconds to claim her fifth gold in the Hangzhou pool and send local fans into raptures.

The Olympic 200m butterfly champion is on track to reach her target of seven gold medals in Hangzhou, with the 50m butterfly and 4x100m medley relay on swimming’s final day on Friday.

Zhang has been the focus of these Games but a former golden girl of Chinese swimming also made a splash when Ye blitzed the field to claim the 200m breaststroke gold.

At 16, Ye became a global sensation when she took the 200m medley title with a world record swim at the London Olympics and then added the 400m medley gold.

Now 27, Hangzhou native Ye returned to the pool for her home Games and is eyeing another Olympics in Paris next year.

“To be able to win this gold medal based on six months’ training has given me great confidence and I hope more training can only prepare me more,” she said.

World champion Qin Haiyang cruised to victory in the men’s 200m breaststroke final with a time of 2:07.03, adding to his 100m title on Monday.

The owner of the 50, 100 and 200 breaststroke world titles from Fukuoka, Qin will look to complete another hat-trick in Hangzhou with victory in the shortest distance on Friday.

Esports success

Five years after being a demonstration sport at the Jakarta Asian Games, esports’ debut as a medal event has proved a hit at Hangzhou.

South Korean Kim Gwan-woo beat Taiwan’s Hsiang Yu-Lin for the gold medal in “Street Fighter V” using the masked character “Vega” in the popular game with 1980s origins.

“He is handsome, he looks like me, he wears a mask, the weapons he uses are very personal, and his fast movements are very attractive,” said the 44-year-old Kim.

With South Korea having long given Asian Games champions an exemption from mandatory military service, some of the country’s gamers are on track for a leave pass.

South Korea beat China in the semi-finals of the multi-player battle arena game, “League of Legends”.

That team, which includes superstar gamer Lee Sang-hyeok -- better known by his gaming avatar ‘Faker’ -- meet Taiwan in League’s gold medal clash on Friday.

South Korea also celebrated gold in one of the Olympics’ oldest sports when their peerless fencers won the men’s team sabre title for a third Asian Games in succession.

Oh Sang-guk, Kim Jun-ho and Gu Bon-gil silenced a raucous home crowd by comfortably beating their Chinese rivals 45-33 in the nine-bout final.

Gu, who also won the team sabre gold at the 2012 London Olympics, savoured Thursday’s win after being beaten for the individual title by team mate Oh.

“(Oh) promised me we would win gold in the team match,” said the 34-year-old Gu.

“I dedicate my individual silver medal to my wife and my gold to my baby son.” Taiwan’s Lee Chih-kai, who took the pommel horse silver at the Tokyo Olympics, pipped Japan’s Ryota Tsumura for the Hangzhou gold with a score of 15.50.

Chinese tennis player Zheng Qinwen, fresh off her dream run to the U.S. Open quarter-finals, guaranteed at least a silver medal after prevailing in a three-set semi-final against the Philippines’ impressive 18-year-old Alex Eala.

Zheng will meet compatriot Zhu Lin in the final.

The traditional Chinese martial art of Wushu has been a goldmine for the hosts at Asian Games and so it has proved again in Hangzhou where they took 11 out of 15 titles.

Iran, the most enthusiastic Wushu nation outside of China, lost three out of three gold medal deciders to local rivals, including an especially bitter defeat for women’s 52-kg fighter Elaheh Mansoryan Samiroumi, now runner-up at three consecutive Games.

Five years after losing to Li Yueyao for the gold at the Jakarta Asian Games, Samiroumi was defeated by her Chinese nemesis again and wept on the podium.