HANGZHOU, China–South Korea’s Olympic champion fencers claimed a third consecutive gold for the nation in the Asian Games men’s team sabre on Thursday after Taiwan’s Lee Chih-kai retained his pommel horse title in gymnastics.
Nicknamed ‘The Avengers’, Oh Sang-guk, Kim Jun-ho and Gu Bon-gil silenced a raucous home crowd at the Hangzhou University Dianzi Gymnasium by comfortably beating their Chinese rivals 45-33 in the nine-bout final.
It was a huge boost for the South Koreans less than a year before the Paris Olympics where they will defend their gold medal from Tokyo.
Gu, also part of the team who won sabre gold at the 2012 London Olympics, featured in South Korea’s Asian Games titles at Jakarta in 2018 and Incheon in 2014.
“The teamwork was very good and the home crowd was cheering really loudly, but it wasn’t a problem for us,” said Gu, who was runner-up in the individual event to team mate Oh.
“(Oh) promised me we would win gold in the team match.
“I dedicate my individual silver medal to my wife and my gold to my baby son.”
Taiwan’s Lee, who took the pommel horse silver at the Tokyo Olympics behind Britain’s Max Whitlock, pipped Japan’s Ryota Tsumura for the gold at the Huanglong Sports Centre Gymnasium 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 6-1 6-7(5) 6-3 in a tough semi-final against the Philippines’ impressive 18-year-old Alex Eala.
Zheng will meet compatriot Zhu Lin in the final.
Diplomatic tension has overshadowed the Games, with North Korean shooters shunning their South Korean counterparts and India’s sports minister boycotting the opening ceremony after three of the country’s Wushu fighters were unable to compete in Hangzhou due to a visa issue.
The president of the Russian Olympic Committee has also criticized Asian Games organizers for rowing back on a decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Games.
Russian and Belarusian athletes have been largely barred from international competition since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.
The traditional Chinese martial art of Wushu has been a convenient way for the hosts to rack up medals at past Asian Games and so it has proved again in Hangzhou.
Team China finished with 11 out of 15 of the competition’s golds, seven decided on a helter-skelter final day.
Iran, the most enthusiastic Wushu nation outside of China, lost three out of three gold medal deciders to the hosts on Thursday, 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.
Iran still finished with two men’s golds, both taken from finals against non-Chinese opponents.
“We are very strong and with more practice, more pain, more hard work, we can beat anyone. Yes, even China,” said Iran’s 65-kg champion Afshin Salimi Toupghara.