Asiad Athletics Start as World Record Equaled on the Ranges

A general view of the start of the Women's Triathlon Competition at the Corniche Triathlon Course,Dec. 8, 2006 in Doha (AFP Photo)

The athletics program got underway at the Asian Games minus several high-profile stars Friday as India's Jaspal Rana equalled a 17-year-old world record on the shooting ranges.

Midway through day seven, China was closing in on the magic 100 gold medal mark as its domination continued unabated. It now has 91 with Japan on 27 and South Korea on 20.

Kazakhstan won another two gold, in the men's triathlon and the men's Skeet team on the shooting ranges, to take their tally to 12.

As Doha experienced its wettest weather in more than 40 years, Rana was the star performer, equalling the record on his way to winning the 25m Centre Fire Pistol individual gold medal.

Weak and dizzy with viral fever, he shot a combined tally of 590 in the precision and rapid rounds to equal the world mark set by Afanasijs Kuzmins of the former Soviet Union in Zagreb in 1989.

He promptly lambasted the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the sports ministry for doing nothing to help him ahead of the Games.

"I know the NRAI and the government will try and take the credit for my success but they have been of no help to me at all," Rana said.

At the 50,000-seat Khalifa Stadium, the absence of Qatar's Kenyan-born, two-time world steeplechase champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen was being sorely felt.

Shaheen pulled out of the Games injured last week.

It sets the scene though for a thrilling duel later Friday between two other Kenyan-born athletes, Qatar's Gamal Belal Salem and Bahrain's Tareq Mobarak Salem.

With Japanese hammer thrower Koji Murofushi, the Olympic champion, also withdrawing through injury, Kuwait's Mohammad Al Jawar and Qatar's Mohammed Al Kaabi are expected to fight for gold in the men's hammer.

Asian record holder Zhang Wenxiu is aiming to beat her best in the women's event.

In the women's 10,000m, Japan's silver medallist from four years ago Kayoko Fukushi starts as favourite.

China proved the country to beat in Busan four years ago, followed by a Saudi Arabian team spurred on by fabled US coach John Smith.

Smith is again at the helm of the Saudis while China enjoyed big success at the recent world junior championships and will be keenly watching how its young bloods perform here with its eye firmly on the Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, the fall out from the death of South Korean rider Kim Hyung-Chil continued with Asian Games equestrian chiefs hitting back at suggestions that the rain-sodden course on which he died was to blame for the tragedy.

The 47-year-old was killed when his horse, Bundaberg Black, hit a fence and stumbled, tossing him to the ground during Thursday's individual cross country event.

Andy Griffiths, the eventing technical delegate, said it was simply an accident.

"In my professional opinion, neither the weather nor the footing had any bearing on this accident," he said.

"No blame can be assigned to any individual factor. This is just a tragic accident that happens in our sport from time to time."

Elsewhere, a dominant display on the bike saw Wang Hongni crowned the first ever Asian Games women's triathlon champion.

The Chinese star crossed the finish line in 1hr 59mins 44.27secs, a massive four minutes ahead of Japan's Ai Ueda, the pre-event favourite. Akiko Sekine of Japan took the bronze.

"I'm very excited. I just cannot express my fellings," said Wang, 24, who is in the People's Liberation Army.

Dmitiry Gaag of Kazakhstan won the men's title.

Hosts Qatar finally got their first gold of the Games, in the equestrian three-day eventing team event, and they immediately dedicated it to the country's emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Source: AFP

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