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China win first e-sports gold of Asian Games

HANGZHOU – China won the Asian Games’ first e-sports gold medal in an event closely watched by Olympic officials on Tuesday, as the hosts consolidated their lead at the top of the medal tally with 53 golds, ahead of second-placed South Korea who have 14.

A team of five Chinese gamers beat Malaysia for the title in the Arena of Valor competition as e-sports pushed its case for Olympic inclusion five years after being a demonstration sport at the Jakarta Asian Games.

Chinese authorities frown on excessive gaming and have put limits on children’s playing time since 2021.

But thousands of home fans were in a frenzy at the Hangzhou Esports Centre as China beat Malaysia 2-0 in a best-of-three clash for the popular mobile phone game.

“I am feeling excited and happy now. Standing on the podium at that moment, I felt very proud, I think everyone performed well,” said China’s Jiang Tao. “We did it, we won the gold medal.”

Tapping furiously on their phones amid ear-splitting music and live commentary, the players communicated via headsets throughout a contest that stretched to 45 minutes and may have seemed bizarre to sports purists.

The e-sports competition is the only Asiad event where tickets, costing up to 1,000 yuan (S$190), were allocated through an initial online lottery.

Thailand earlier claimed the Games’ first e-sports medal by beating Vietnam for the bronze.

China, who have topped the medals table at the last 10 Asian Games, racked up more golds in their traditional strengths of gymnastics, table tennis and shooting.

Home favourite and two-time world champion gymnast Zhang Boeing grabbed his second gold of the Games, adding the all-around individual title to his men’s team triumph on Sunday.

Unbeaten in every rotation, Zhang capped a brilliant afternoon by sticking the landing in the horizontal bar to finish with a total score of 89.299, more than two points clear of Japan’s runner-up Takeru Kitazono.

At the shooting range, China’s Huang Yuting, 17, and her teammate Sheng Lihao, 18, clinched the gold medal in the 10m air rifle mixed team event, making it Huang’s third gold medal in Hangzhou and the second for Sheng.

“There was a little pressure on the home court,” said Zhejiang-born Huang, who had also won the women’s 10m air rifle individual and team events. “And I just tried to see it from a positive way... Hangzhou of Zhejiang is a lucky place for me.” 

Indonesia’s Muhammad Sejahtera Putra topped the podium in the 10m running target mixed run, ahead of North Korea’s Kwon Kwan Gil and South Korea’s Jeong You-jin. It was the second gold of the Games for Sejahtera, 26.

Meanwhile, the South Korean delegation has been in the spotlight for the conduct of its athletes.

On Sunday, judoka Lee Hye-kyeong was disqualified in the semi-finals of the women’s 48-kg division for slapping a Kazakh opponent in the face during their bout, while on Monday, men’s tennis player Kwon Soon-woo destroyed his racket in an epic tantrum after he lost to a much lower-ranked Thai opponent Kasidit Samrej.

Kwon, who also snubbed the post-match handshake, visited Thailand’s training camp to apologise, a South Korean tennis federation official told Yonhap on Tuesday. REUTERS, XINHUA