Mariko Adachi lived up to her status as pre-race favorite, powering away in the run leg to lead Japan in a gold-silver finish in the women's triathlon Saturday on the first morning of Asian Games competition. Adachi finished fourth in world championship events in Sydney and Madrid this year and was ninth overall in the ITU championship, the best of any female Asian triathlete.
She won in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 45 seconds while her teammate Akane Tsuchihashi was second in 2:06.31. Jang Yun-jung of South Korea took the bronze in 2:07.52. Adachi waited for Tsuchihashi to finish, then the Japanese pair, who belong to the same club team in Tokyo, held their hands in the air to wave to the crowd. "The swim leg went exactly as planned, and in the cycle, we tried to exchange the lead a few times," Adachi said through an interpreter about her teammate. "In the run, I felt very strong. Now I feel very proud to get Japan's first gold medal.
Tsuchihashi said she admired her gold medal-winning friend. "She is the model that I respect and should follow," Tsuchihashi said. The race started at 9 a.m. and was held under mostly sunny skies and a temperature of 26 Celsius (79 Fahrenheit). It included a 1.5-kilometer swim in Centre Lake at the University Town complex, followed by a seven-lap, 40-kilometer cycle on a flat course with tight turns and a 10-kilometer run that included several hills. The men's race, which includes defending champion Dmitry Gaag of Kazakhstan, will be held Sunday.
Despite loud Chinese rock and rap music and such Western songs as Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" creating a party atmosphere at the packed finish line, both the cycle and run courses had a sparse smattering of spectators through the leafy university complex in Panyu district, about 10 kilometers from downtown Guangzhou. The two Japanese women led out of the swim leg, but then were involved in a five-way tussle for the lead in the cycle leg.
After four laps, Adachi and Tsuchihashi, Fan Dan of China, Jang Yun-jung of South Korea and Hoi Long of Macau were bunched, with Hoi and Fan in the chase group. Hoi caught the pack and led for several kilometers at the hour-long mark of the race and into the sixth lap of the cycle before Jang powered away to lead out of the cycle leg transition in a time of 1:30.02, with Fan a second behind and Adachi two.
Adachi quickly made up the slight disadvantage, catching Jang within a half-kilometer and then taking a 20-meter lead that she easily extended, getting stronger as the run led progressed. She led by more than 30 seconds going into the final lap. Enkhjargal Tuvshinjargal of Mongolia was the 11th and last competitor to finish the race, crossing the line 36 minutes after Adachi.