JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Two countries, 12 women, one significant medal.
A combined Koreas crew earned a historic bronze medal at the Asian Games on Saturday by finishing third in the final of the 200-meter traditional — or dragon — boat final behind China and games host Indonesia.
It was the first time a combined team from North Korea and South Korea has won a medal at a major multi-sport international event.
It was awarded to Korea — the name given to the combined teams the countries entered in rowing, canoeing and women’s basketball — and not to North or South Korea.
A group of athletes from North Korea and South Korea paraded into the opening ceremony last weekend behind the “unification” flag which features the outline of the peninsula in blue on a white background.
It took another seven days for any of the combined teams to get on the medals standings, by which time South Korea had 23 gold medals to sit in third spot and North Korea had nine gold medals and was in sixth position overall.
The joint crew featured seven South Koreans and five North Koreans and finished in 56.851 seconds at the Jakabaring Rowing and Canoeing Regatta Course in the co-host city of Palembang.
The combined Koreas basketball team is a gold-medal chance and has progressed to the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.
The men’s marathon was the opening event in the athletics program and it finished in a sprint, with Hiroto Inoue of Japan hanging on for gold after a late tangle with Bahrain’s Elhassan Elabbassi.
Inoue finished in 2 hours, 18 minutes and 22 seconds and held his arms out wide as he crossed the line less than a meter ahead of Elabassi, who was credited with the same time.
Inoue and Elabassi dueled for the lead over the last five kilometers on a steamy morning in the Indonesian capital.
They entered the main stadium together and were shoulder-to-shoulder coming around the last curve of the track. Elhassan attempted to surge inside Inoue on the left in the inside lane with about 50 meters to go but had a small collision with his Japanese rival and lost his balance.
“It was a tough race. I knew I’d win in the home stretch so I went all out,” Inoue told Japanese media. “This is a big confidence boost for me. I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this alone.”
It was Japan’s first gold in the Asian Games men’s marathon in 32 years, and comes as the country prepares to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
China’s Duo Bujie took the bronze, 26 seconds behind, and Japan’s Hayato Sonoda, who set the pace at the 30 and 35-kilometer marks, faded to fourth. Ser-od Bat-Ochir of Mongolia led at the 25-kilometer mark before finishing in fifth,
The race was held in hot, humid conditions despite the 6 a.m. start. Six of the 21 starters failed to finish.
The win gave Japan the first gold medal of the athletics program and its 30th overall in the games.