Asian Games closes with basketball upset

The curtain came down on the 14th Asian Games here Monday, with South Korea's basketball players upsetting mighty China in a dramatic last act of the continental sporting spectacular.

india Updated: Oct 14, 2002 18:49 IST

The curtain came down on the 14th Asian Games here Monday, with South Korea's basketball players upsetting mighty China in a dramatic last act of the continental sporting spectacular.

China had steamrollered all opposition en route to the final and had been expected to waltz to their country's 151st gold medal of the games against the Korean underdogs.

But despite a line-up featuring NBA top draft pick Yao Ming, and the LA Clippers' Menke Batere, China soon found themselves in the fight of their lives against a home side that chased every point.

The match was forced into over-time when the two sides finished regulation locked at 90-90.

China, who had let a nine-point lead slip late in the game, fell behind and were never to recover as the Koreans hung on for a sensational victory at the Sajik Gymnasium.

"I never thought we could beat the Chinese team," said Korean big man Seo Jang-Hoon, who together with Kim Joo-Sung helped make Yao work hard for every point and rebound.

"At the beginning, we never thought we could beat them. We just wanted to go out and play as hard as we could so that we would not regret."

The Korean upset was the final event of day 16, where the last seven golds were settled.

China finished on top of the medal table, with 150 golds, while hosts Korea were a distant second with 96. Japan finished third overall with 44, with Kazakhstan fourth.

The curtain came down on the Games with a two-hour closing ceremony inside a packed Busan Main Stadium as the flag of the tournament was lowered and handed over to representatives of the Gulf state of Qatar, where the 15th Asian Games will be staged in 2006.

The final day of the games had at one point looked like being remembered for all the wrong reasons, after two more ugly confrontations on the badminton court sparked by poor line-calls.

Indonesian star Taufik Hidayat angrily interrupted his men's singles final against South Korean Lee Hyun-Il for five minutes when leading 15-7, 9-8.

Hidayat, who stormed off the court last week during the men's team final, leading to a two-hour interruption of the game, again looked close to the edge in the singles final.

Hidayat's flare-up was followed in the women's doubles final, when China's Gao Ling and Huang Sui protested a call and and their match against South Koreans Ra Kyung-Min and Lee Kyung-Won was halted for 10 minutes.

Reluctantly, the second-seeded Chinese pair continued and were well-beaten 11-8, 11-7.

In the final track and field event of the day, South Korea's Lee Bong-Ju coasted home in the men's marathon - but it was a gutsy performance by a totally exhausted Myanmar runner Zaw Min Htwe which stole the show.

Lee, forced to change tactics because of the slow pace, finished in a modest 2hr 14min 04 sec, continuing South Korea's dominance of the race.

But the home crowd saved their loudest cheer for Zaw Min Htwe who was drained of every ounce of energy as he staggered over the final 400m.

Zaw Min Htwe, who had long lost his shoes and finished barefoot, collapsed across the line in 13th place, 27 minutes behind Lee and stretchered away.

Meanwhile the award for best athlete of the games, decided after a poll of more than 1,000 journalists covering the event, was named as Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima.

Kitajima, a triple gold medallist, became the first man to crack the 2:10 seconds barrier in the 200m breaststroke in his swim of 2:09.97 to smash American Mike Barrowman's 10-year-old mark.

Chinese gymnast Zhang Nan, who won four gold medals, was the runner-up, narrowly beating 15-year-old Chinese swimmer Wu Peng who exploded onto the scene with three gold.

Kitajima flew back from Japan to collect his award of a gold trophy as well as 20,000 dollars.

He received a huge ovation at the closing ceremony which featured dancers and artists from both South Korea and Qatar, as well as a sizeable delegation from the North Korean team who despatched 100 of its athletes as well as 260 of its now widely-recognised cheering squad to the stadium.

The supporters have been shut away on a ferry ship, the Mankyungbong 92, for the duration of the tournament and in a sign of thawing relations with the South, the North's cheering squad will host a party for the press on Tuesday morning.

In the afternoon, the craft sets sail taking the squad back home and into obscurity once more.

First Published: Oct 14, 2002 18:35 IST