Lius Xiang on the way to Asian Championships title No. 4 (© Yohei Kamiyama (Agence Shot))
Liu Xiang came and did what is customary for him, win the 110m Hurdles title. This one, his fourth in a row in the Asian Championships, came in a championship record of 13.22 to highlight the final day of competition.
A holiday crowd applauded him, but the electric atmosphere of the Guangdong Olympic Stadium in 2009 was missing. Naturally, since a huge crowd of roaring home fans had greeted him then.
Naturally again, over 8,000 spectators who came on a bright, hot day to the Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium gave full-throated backing to the Japanese athletes, especially during the relays.
Japan won all the four relays on Sunday to go to the top of the medals standings, displacing China, for the first time since it hosted the 1981 edition in Tokyo. It had a tally of 11 gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze medals to China’s 10-12-5. China had won 18 gold medals last time to Japan’s 12.
Liu Xiang performed as he was expected to, in the lead before half-way through the race and untroubled in the end. The former World and Olympic champion said, “It is not a bad result. It was a very hot day, so I wasn't able to prepare as I normally do. I am pleased to set a new championship record."
As has almost become routine, team-mate Shi Dongpeng took the silver behind the biggest Chinese track star in a time of 13.56.
Liu Xiang is No. 2 in the season lists with his 13.00, clocked in Eugene, while finishing second behind American David Oliver (12.94).
Two other championship records were bettered and one equalled on the final day. Japanese Yukifumi Murakami, bronze medallist at the last World Championships in Berlin, threw the javelin to 83.27m, bettering the previous record of 82.75m set by Chinese Li Rongxiang in Colombo in 2002.
Japanese woman steeplechaser Miyori Hayakari proved too good in a modest field that did not contain any Chinese, while posting a new championship record of 9:52.42 that removed team-mate Yoshika Tatsumi’s mark of 10:05.94 set in the last edition.
Hayakari was so commanding that with two laps to go she had built up a 45-metre lead over Indian Sudha Singh, the gold winner at the last Asian Games, and she increased it to around 80 metres by the time she finished.
Sudha Singh came a poor second in 10:08.52 while Nguyen Thi Phuong confirmed the emerging status of the Vietnamese woman athletes by clinching the bronze in 10:14.94.
Another Vitenamese woman, Truong Thanh Hang, a more experienced customer than Phuong, won the 800m, outclassing a tough field with a decisive kick on the straight. Truong, also the 2007 Asian champion, clocked a season best 2:01.41.
Behind her, the favourite, Margarita Matsko of Kazakhstan, timed 2:02.46, just managing to hold off Indian Tintu Luka, who was running only her second race of the season, and eventually timed 2:02.55.
Asian season leader Viktoriya Yalovtseva of Kazakhstan was sixth in 2:04.66. She had recorded 2:00.57 while winning in Bishek last month.
Twenty-year-old Femi Ogunode had shown his potential while taking a surprise double at the last Asian Games. He won the 200m and the 400m in Guangzhou. Here he did not enter the 400m, but timed 20.41 in the 200m on Sunday to equal the 1985 record of Korean Jang Jae-Keun.
Kuwaiti Mohammad Al-Azemi completed a double, adding the 800m gold to the 1500m title he had claimed earlier. He beat the Asian Games champion, Iranian Sajad Moradi in the process. Moradi’s big ‘kick’ that destroyed the field in Guangzhou last year was missing.
Instead, it was Al-Azemi who broke from 200 metres from the finish to hold onto the lead despite a late effort by Moradi. The Kuwaiti timed 1:46.14, Moradi 1:46.35 and Indian Ghamanda Ram 1:46.46 in a close finish. It was Ram’s first medal at the Asian level on a comeback.
A high quality contest was also witnessed in the men’s Long Jump event where the top four crossed eight metres. Season leader Su Xiongfeng of China took the gold with 8.19m, equalling his season best recorded in the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai last May.
Thai Sukhasvasti Ayudhya was tied with Japanese Rikiya Sarumaya at 8.05m for the second place, but clinched it on his only other valid jump that measured 7.74m. The second best for the Japanese was 7.61m.
Japanese Yohei Sugai (8.03m) was the fourth man to cross eight metres.
There was tie for the women’s High Jump gold also, Chinese Zheng Xingjuan and Uzbek Svetlana Radzivil clearing 1.92m. The Uzbek had three attempts at 1.92m while Zheng cleared that height on her first attempt and that clinched the argument. Both failed at 1.95m.
For the first time since 1983, India failed to win a medal in the women’s 4x400m relay. Fielding a scratch combination that included two 1500m runners, India came fourth behind Japan, Kazakhstan and Iraq.
Gretta Taslakian won for Libya its first-ever women’s medal, taking the silver in the 200m behind Japanese favourite Chisato Fukushima.
By an IAAF correspondent
Leading Results -
200m: 1. Femi Seun Ogunode (Qat) 20.41 (Equal CR), 2. Hitoshi Saito (Jpn) 20.75, 3. Omar Juma Al-Salfa (UAE) 20.97.
800m: 1. Mohammad Al-Azemi (Kuw) 1:46.14, 2. Sajad Moradi (Iri) 1:46.35, 3. Ghamanda Ram (Ind) 1:46.46.
110m hurdles: 1. Liu Xiang (Chn) 13.22 (CR), 2. Shi Dongpeng (Chn) 13.56, 3. Park Taek-Yong (Kor) 13.66.
Long jump: 1. Su Xiongfeng (Chn) 8.19, 2. Suphanara Sukhasvasti Ayudhaya (Tha) 8.05, 3. Rikiya Saruma (Jpn) 8.05.
Javelin: 1. Yukifumi Murakami (Jpn) 83.27 (CR), 2. Park Jaem-Young (Kor) 80.19, 3. Ivan Zaitcev (Uzb) 79.22.
4x100m relay: 1. Japan 39.18, 2. Hong Kong 39.26, 3. Chinese Taipei 39.30.
4x400m relay: 1. Japan 3:04.72, 2. Saudi Arabia 3:08.03, 3. Iran 3:08.58.
200m: 1. Chisato Fukushima (Jpn) 23.49, 2. Gretta Taslakian (Lib) 24.01, 3. Saori Imai (Jpn) 24.06.
800m: 1. Truong Thanh Hang (Vie) 2:01.41, 2. Margarita Matsko (Kaz) 2:02.46, 3. Tintu Luka (Ind) 2:02.55.
3000m steeplechase: 1. Miyori Hayakari (Jpn) 9:52.42 (CR), 2. Sudha Singh (Ind) 10:08.52, 3. Nguyen Thi Phuong (Vie) 10:14.94.
100m hurdles: 1. Sun Yawei (Chn) 13.04, 2. Jung Hye-Lim (Kor) 13.11, 3. Natalya Ivoninskaya (Kaz) 13.15.
High jump: 1. Zheng Xingjuan (Chn) 1.92, 2. Sevtlana Radzivil (Uzb) 1.92, 3. Marina Aitova (Kaz) 1.89.
Shot put: 1, Meng Qianqian (Chn) 18.31, 2. Liu Xiangrong (Chn) 18.30, 3. Leyla Rajabi (Iri) 16.60.
4x100m relay: 1. Japan 44.05, 2. China 44.23, 3. Thailand 44.62.
4x400m relay: 1. Japan 3:35.00, 2. Kazakhstan 3:36.61, 3. Iraq 3:41.91.