JAKARTA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Japanese teenager Rikako Ikee clinched her fifth gold of the Asian Games, and her seventh medal in total, to give her team an edge over China in the title count on the penultimate night of swimming at the Jakarta pool on Thursday.
Ikee’s team mate Satomi Suzuki shared in her 4x100 metres medley relay success soon after defending her 50m breaststroke title, while Shinri Shioura won the blue riband men’s 100m freestyle to give Japan a total of 17 golds.
China kept pace through multiple medallists of their own, with Xu Jiayu completing a backstroke sweep in the 200m for his fourth gold, while Wang Jianjiahe claimed an emphatic victory in the 800m freestyle for a women’s distance double.
The Chinese finished the night with 16 golds, but still have Sun Yang looking to complete his 200m-400m-800m-1,500m sweep in the longest of the freestyle races on Friday.
With the Tokyo Olympics only two years away, however, Ikee will outshine even multiple Olympic and world champion Sun for meet honours if she can secure a sixth gold in the 50m freestyle on the final night in Jakarta.
“I’ve been racing since the Pan Pacs and that has been hard on my body,” she said after swimming a dominant butterfly leg as Japan stormed to victory in the medley relay in 3 minutes 54.73 seconds. She added that she had also been “on the verge of mentally breaking down” but endured thanks to her supporters.
“I just want to give it all I have,” the 18-year-old said.
Singapore’s Olympic champion Joseph Schooling continued his lonely stand against Japanese and Chinese hegemony in the Jakarta pool with a second gold in butterfly, adding the 50m title to the 100m gold he won on Wednesday.
It was a close run thing, however, and the 23-year-old was pushed right to the end by China’s Wang Peng, winning by four hundredths of a second in 23.61.
“It feels great, time wasn’t great but it’s a race, right?” Schooling said. “I wouldn’t say (I’ve made) an emphatic statement, I’m just trying to do the best I can for my country.”
World champion Xu could hardly have done more for China in Jakarta and leapt onto the lane ropes to celebrate after an emphatic victory in 1.53.99. He added the 100m backstroke title to the 50m and 100m golds he already had to his name.
“My goal coming to the Games was to try to win five gold medals,” Xu said. “I believe in myself and will fight until the last event, the men’s medley relay tomorrow.”
Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, who was bidding for a fourth straight title in the 200m, ended up second behind Xu in all three backstroke races but Shioura, 26, ensured China would at least not sweep all the freestyle races.
The runner up four years ago in Incheon won the 100m by a mere hundredth of a second from team mate Katsumi Nakamura in 48.71.
There was nothing remotely close about Wang’s win in the women’s 800m freestyle, where the 16-year-old 1,500m champion beat team mate Li Bingjie by a whopping 10 seconds for a second gold in a Games’ record time of 8.18.55.
Suzuki also recorded a Games’ record to secure a breaststroke double, recovering from a poor start to touch the wall in 30.85, and she was back in the pool in the final race of the evening to win her third gold in the medley relay.
China kept it close but were disqualified along with third-placed South Korea, leaving Japan triumphant and Hong Kong and Singapore celebrating silver and bronze. (Additional reporting by Angie Teo, editing by Andrei Khalip)