By Martin Quin Pollard and Ian Ransom
HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) -India’s men’s teams won chaotic kabaddi and washed-out cricket finals, the South Korean men’s football team earned exemptions from military service, and China achieved a record gold haul at the Hangzhou Asian Games on Saturday.
The men’s kabaddi final between India and defending champions Iran descended into chaos and was delayed for over an hour as players and coaches protested over a referee decision with the game level on points and with just over a minute to play.
There were sitdown protests from players, heated discussions between coaches and referees and the final was temporarily “suspended”. But eventually it restarted and India won 33-29, prompting wild celebrations from the players.
India also took gold in the men’s cricket as the rain-hit T20 final against Afghanistan was decided by the superpower’s superior global ranking.
Afghanistan, ranked 10th in the ICC’s T20 rankings versus world number one India, were left with silver and powerless to do anything about it after rain halted the match when they were 112 for five after 18.2 overs of the first innings.
With India unable to bat a minimum required five overs, play was abandoned soon after 5 p.m. local time (0900 GMT), leaving Ruturaj Gaikwad’s team to celebrate victory by default.
Deciding results based purely on teams’ global rankings is almost unheard of in cricket, let alone for finals in major tournaments.
In the men’s soccer final reigning champions South Korea, whose team included PSG midfielder Lee Kang-In, beat Japan 2-1 to take the gold and earn all the players an exemption from military service.
Earlier on Saturday the Indian women’s kabaddi team beat Taiwan 26-25 for gold, without so much drama which enabled India to hit their 100 medal target for the Asian Games.
Kabaddi is akin to a cross between tag and rugby, played on a court the length of a badminton court but slightly wider, usually in a seven-against-seven player format.
The aim is for a “raider” from the attacking team to run into their opposing team’s half, tag as many of the opposition’s players as possible and then run back to his or her team’s half without being tackled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called India’s medal tally a “momentous achievement”, writing on social media platform X: “The people of India are thrilled that we have reached a remarkable milestone of 100 medals.”
India is fourth in the medals table, comfortably above fifth-placed Uzbekistan and behind China, Japan and South Korea at the games in the eastern Chinese city.
The South Asian giant was eighth at the continental sports showpiece five years ago in Jakarta, with 70 medals, their best at the time, including 16 golds.
India had targeted 100 medals for the games, which end on Sunday, Bhupender Singh Bajwa, India’s chef de mission for the Asian Games, told Reuters.
China, which has dominated the medals table in Hangzhou, passed its previous record of 199 golds won when it last hosted the Games in Guangzhou in 2010. That was thanks to a flurry of golds, including in archery, artistic swimming, badminton, canoe slalom, chess, hockey and volleyball.
The 200th record-breaking gold was won by 29-year-old Xiangqi (Chinese chess) player Zheng Weitong, after a 2-0 victory over his compatriot Zhao Xinxin.
Another came from Zhang Ziyang, 21, who won the men’s 10 km marathon swimming race by just four tenths of a second after a nearly two-hour battle with team mate Lan Tianchen, 18, went down to the last stroke.
Last week he came sixth in the men’s 400 metres freestyle, and won a silver medal in the 4×200 metres freestyle relay.
“I performed average in the swimming pool, so I can say that this medal today is one of the biggest surprises of the Asian Games for me,” Zhang said.
Japanese “b-boy” Shigeyuki Nakarai, 21, and Chinese “b-girl” Liu Qingyi, 17, ruled the dancefloor at the “breaking” venue to win the first ever golds in breakdancing at the Asian Games on the event’s debut ahead of its entry into the Olympic programme for the first time in Paris next summer.
“I feel so happy, I really enjoyed the first battle until the last,” said Nakarai after his win. “The level is so high. Today’s tournament was at the highest level in the world, so it wasn’t easy for me to win this tournament.”
But many of the dancers, such as Japan’s b-girl silver medallist Ami Yuasa, 24, were still getting used to the idea of having sporting status.
“For me it’s more like a new challenge, because for me breaking isn’t a sport, it’s like creating art and expressing myself,” said Yuasa. “It’s a little bit difficult for me to see it as a sport.”
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Ian Ransom in Hangzhou; Editing by William Mallard and Hugh Lawson)