JAKARTA – Individual and team sweeps in equestrian eventing and men’s golf gave Japan six gold medals at the Asian Games on Sunday, helped along by a late win for defending champion Keisuke Ushiro in the men’s decathlon.
Ushiro ran an incredible 1,500-meter race to win the gold, Japan’s first in track and field at these games. Entering the event’s final discipline, the 32-year-old was two points behind Suttisak Singkhon of Thailand, needing to beat him over the almost four laps on the track at GBK main stadium to claim gold.
By finishing the 1,500 in third, he scored 655 points and built a 69-point final buffer over the Thai. Akihiko Nakamura won the 1,500 to snatch bronze from China’s Gong Kewei.
“I’m really happy with this,” said Ushiro, who won the decathlon’s three throwing disciplines and the pole vault. “I’m at an age, 32, where I’m called a veteran, but that is just a number. I want to win a medal in a world competition, and Tokyo 2020 is coming up, so I aim to keep striving.”
Elsewhere, Yoshiaki Oiwa and his mount led the way to equestrian eventing gold, winning the individual event by 3.7 points over India’s Fouaad Mirza.
Oiwa’s performance, along with the cumulative scores of Ryuzo Kitajima, Takayuki Yumira and Kenta Hiranaga— who finished the individual event in fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively — gave Japan a huge 38.9-point win in the team event.
“As a competitor, you do what you can,” said Oiwa. “We could have won gold without any help from me. Putting the two gold medals together, they feel really heavy.
“Now, as I look toward the Tokyo Olympics, I want to prepare so I’ll be a medal contender, and give people who love equestrian something worth watching.”
Keita Nakajima completed a wire-to-wire win in men’s golf, leading all four days to finish with a 72-hole score of 11-under, one shot ahead of his nearest challenger, Oh Seung-taek from South Korea.
“This was made possible through the good graces of my older teammates,” Nakajima said. “Compared to yesterday, I started play composed, without any nerves. I was able to play my round without making any big mistakes.”
Takumi Kanaya finished tied for fourth at 7-under, helping Japan get to 28-under to win the team event, seven shots ahead of China.
Japan’s other gold on Sunday came from veteran sports climber Akiyo Noguchi. After an up-and-down qualifying period, Noguchi took gold ahead of two South Koreans, putting herself in good stead ahead of the introduction of the sport at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I didn’t do well in the qualifiers, and I started in the bottom of the field after the first discipline, so I was really stretched,” Noguchi said. “I struggled both mentally and physically and it was a really tight competition. So I’m really glad I won today.”
Gold medal favorite Tomoa Narasaki couldn’t shake a slow start and was left with bronze in the men’s combined sport climbing event. Kokoro Fujii won silver.
After battling through a quarterfinal and semifinal on Sunday, Japan’s women’s 3×3 basketball team had its run halted by a 21-10 loss to China in the final, giving them silver.
In badminton, Japan’s singles struggles continued, with 2017 world champion and Rio bronze medalist Nozomi Okuhara losing to world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan 2-0 in their quarterfinal.
However, in a high-level meeting between the world Nos. 2 and 5, Akane Yamaguchi beat China’s Chen Yufei 2-0.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5