HACHINOHE, Aomori Pref. – Japan’s Hiroyasu Shimizu turned it on in front of another bumper crowd by winning the men’s 500 meters and Maki Tabata nabbed her second gold with victory in the women’s 1,500 at the Winter Asian Games speedskating competition on Monday.
Elsewhere, South Korean Lee Kyou Hyuk and Chinese sprinter Wang Manli put an end to the host nation’s domination with sparkling performances to win the men’s 1,500 and women’s 500 at Nagane Park Speed Skating Rink.
After setting a meet record of 35.56 seconds in Sunday’s first race, Shimizu took his foot off the pedal but still zoomed home unchallenged as he clocked 35.81 to win in a combined time of 1:11.37.
“I felt more tired than I thought I would after yesterday’s race and that’s why I couldn’t skate faster today,” Shimizu said after leading Japan to a clean sweep of the podium places.
“But overall I’m pleased with the way I skated,” added the 500-meter world record holder.
Tomonori Kawata (36.27) held on to second to take silver in 1:12.47 and up-and-coming Joji Kato (36.32) won the bronze in 1:12.72.
“We were all confident we could take the top three spots and now we have to try and do the same at bigger international meets,” said Shimizu.
Wang held on to her overnight lead to win the women’s 500 in 1:18.41, edging out Japan’s Yukari Watanabe (1:18.80) and Sayuri Osuga (1:19.19).
In the women’s 1,500, it was business as usual for 3,000 winner Tabata as she glided over the line in a meet record time of 2:05.66, more than three seconds clear of teammate Aki Tonoike, who clocked 2:08.79.
“My goal here was to win two gold medals so obviously I’m very pleased to have accomplished that,” said all-around national champion Tabata.
South Korean 3,000 silver medalist Back Eun Bi was third in 2:09.61 and her compatriots wrapped up the second day of the competition by taking the top four spots in the men’s 1,500.
Winner Lee Kyou Hyuk said he was delighted with his meet record time of 1:54.65 that earns him exemption from national service.
“I’m over the moon because now I can focus solely on skating,” said the 25-year-old.
The silver went to Mun Joon (1:54.89) and the bronze to Yeo Sang Yeop (1:55.69), with defending Winter Asian Games champion Choi Jae Bong settling for fourth.
In other events, high school junior Chika Takeda set the fastest time in both legs to claim gold in the women’s slalom.
After opening up a gap of 0.65 seconds after a first run of 48.77 seconds, the 17-year-old easily held on to seal victory with a second leg of 50.34 for a combined time of 1:39.11 at the Owani piste.
“After the first run, the only thing I was thinking about was the gold and really went for it. It’s the first time I’ve won a title at a big event,” said Takeda.
Hiromi Yumoto (1:39.99) made it a Japan 1-2 while South Korean Oh Jae Eun (1:40.88) took the bronze.
On Sunday, veteran Kiminobu Kimura took gold for Japan in the men’s slalom.
In the snowboarding competition, Japan’s Kohei Kawaguchi outpaced all would-be challengers to claim the gold in the men’s giant slalom.
Kawaguchi raced down the piste in 1 minute, 9.78 seconds to take the lead after the first run and held out to finish with an overall time of 2:22.44 as the host nation completed a podium sweep at the Sunshine Course in Ajigasawa.
Teruumi Fujimoto and Kentaro Tsuruoka took silver and bronze, respectively, with times of 2:24.47 and 2:24.52.
The 20-year-old Kawaguchi, whose best finish on the World Cup circuit is 18th, attacked the gates aggressively as he extended a gap to more than two seconds on runnerup Fujimoto after two runs.
“I didn’t make any big mistakes today and that led to my victory,” said Kawaguchi. “The way the gates were set up gave me some trouble on the runs but I was able to stay on the grooves. I’d like to become No. 1 in the world next time,” he added.
In the opening event of the men’s biathlon, Hironao Meguro led a Japanese sweep in the 10 km competition.
Despite missing a disappointing three targets in the shooting, Meguro comfortably claimed the gold, finishing 34.5 seconds clear of compatriot and fellow Self-Defense Forces teammate Sunao Noto, who had to settle for silver.
“It’s the first time I’ve competed at the Asian Games, but it feels the same as the Olympics. Winning the gold medal will be a big confidence boost,” said Meguro.
Tatsumi Kasahara ensured Japan gained a monopoly of the podium after placing third a further 31 seconds back.
Japan also took home gold in the women’s 7.5-km race, with Tamami Tanaka finishing 13 seconds ahead of China’s Kong Yingchao.
“I didn’t feel too much pressure and was in great form,” said Tanaka, who achieved the best result ever by a Japanese biathlete when she finished fourth in the 15 km at the 2000 world championships.
In cross country skiing, Maxim Odnodvortsev of Kazakstan clinched the gold in the men’s 15-km freestyle to add to his country’s gold medal collection, while Japan’s Masaaki Kozu won the silver.
Odnodvortsev, who earned the silver in the 10-km classical for one of six medals won by Kazakstan at the Owani course a day earlier, crossed the finish line in 35 minutes, 54.3 seconds.
Kozu clocked 36:01.2 as he stopped the Kazaks’ monopoly of cross country medals.
“I had to win the race. Being runnerup is the same as being third or fourth,” said Kozu, falling flat on his back after the race.
Zhang Chengye of China won the bronze with a time of 36:13.7 and Hiroyuki Imai of Japan was fourth at 36:49.4.