PALEMBANG, INDONESIA - Japan wrapped up its Asian Games campaign with another gold medal on Sunday, the final day of the quadrennial multisport event, after defending its title in the mixed triathlon relay.
The team of Yuka Sato, Jumpei Furuya, Yuko Takahashi and Yuichi Hosoda claimed the final gold on offer at this year’s Asian Games after crossing the line in 1 hour, 30 minutes, 39 seconds in Palembang.
South Korea finished 2 minutes, 22 seconds behind Japan in second place, while Hong Kong took bronze.
“The result is all that matters in the world of sports. So we are proud to win gold with the Tokyo Olympics only two years away,” said Hosoda, who was competing in his third Asian Games. “This might not be the perfect time to say this because we won, but we shouldn’t be satisfied (with this), and we have to do our best to compete in the world.”
The event, in which four athletes race in a relay featuring swimming, biking and running, will make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Japan has dominated triathlon competition at the 16-day Asian Games. Furuya won the men’s individual event on Saturday, while Takahashi struck gold in the women’s event Friday.
“When I woke up this morning, I just felt I was still tired from my race yesterday, but I had to do the best I can because I was chosen to take the second leg,” Furuya said. “Motivation to win was the only thing pushing me forward.”
Japan won the event at the previous Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014.
Japan fell short of gold on the soccer pitch a day earlier, as the nation saw its dream of its first Asian Games men’s soccer gold since 2010 vanish after a 2-1 loss to South Korea in extra time.
On a day in which Japan won five gold medals, six silver and five bronze, senior national team and Olympic head coach Hajime Moriyasu’s side could not break down South Korea in a physical clash at Pakan Sari Stadium.
In judo, Japan continued its golden reign with the help of the new mixed team event. The Japanese won their ninth event, having already tied the record eight gold medals won in 1990 and 1994. Japan beat Kazakhstan 4-0 in the final behind victories from Masashi Ebinuma (men’s 73 kg), Yusuke Kobayashi (men’s 90 kg), Haruka Funakubo (women’s 57 kg) and Shiho Tanaka (women’s 70 kg).
A more surprising turn of events came in men’s field hockey, where Japan earned its first gold medal by winning a penalty shootout over Malaysia following a 6-6 draw. Japan’s previous medal in the sport was a bronze — also at Malaysia’s expense — in 1966.
Rugby sevens, which made its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, was one of two sports in which men’s and women’s teams reached the final for Japan. The women were victorious for the first time, but the men, champions at the previous three games, lost their final 14-0 to Hong Kong.
“Nobody desired to win the gold medal more than us,” Japan women’s captain Chiharu Nakamura said after beating defending Asian Games champion China 7-5 in their final.
In baseball, Japan’s team of amateurs fell 3-0 in the final against a South Korean team made up of domestic professionals. Japan was looking for its first gold medal since the 1994 Hiroshima games. Still, the silver medal was Japan’s best showing since its 2006 silver in Doha.
Japan continued its women’s basketball bronze age, beating Taiwan 76-63 for a fourth consecutive third-place finish. Japan trailed 33-26 but eventually triumphed thanks to 17 points from Saki Hayashi, who hit five three-pointers.
“I told the team at the half to give it all they had and leave it all out there on the court,” Japan head coach Natsumi Yabuuchi said.