Riko Matsuzaki of Japan upset the script by winning the first gold medal at the sixth East Asian Games in Tianjin today, creating a small uproar among the fans at the Olympic Sports Centre.
The distance runner claimed the women’s 5,000 metres in 16 minutes and 9.72 seconds, beating Kim Chun-mi of North Korea (16:35.79) and Fu Tinglian of China (16:40.52).
At the victory ceremony, Matsuzaki received the first gold medal of the Games from Chinese Sports Minister Liu Peng, who then watched the flag-raising ceremony with the Japanese national anthem.
“It is a common practice to see the hosts arrange an event where they have a clearcut advantage so they can win the first gold at a multi-sport games,” said a Hong Kong official in Tianjin.
“In fact, China are very strong in most of the throwing events and they could have arranged for one of them to be the first gold-medal event. The fans would also be much happier if they can listen to their national anthem at the first medal presentation.”
In the second event, Wan Yong of China clinched the men’s hammer gold with a throw of 69.26 metres.
Hong Kong’s hopes rose on the track with both Leung Ki-ho and Chan Yun-lam qualifying for the 200-metre final. Leung, who ran 21.93 seconds to finish second in his heat, is confident of a podium finish. “I was very relaxed in the race and there will be some improved performance in the final,” he said.
Former world 200m junior champion Shato Iizuka, of Japan, who won his heat in 21.26 seconds, is the favourite of the event.