China collected another 14 gold medals at the Asian Games
on Monday to raise their gold tally to 124, but Olympic champion Liu Xiang made bigger news than any champion despite just making a brief appearance in the men's 110 meters hurdles heat.
South Korea, who claimed seven further gold medals on Monday, overtook fierce rivals Japan to take the second place in the medal table with 44 golds. Japan slipped to third with 43.
Liu, one of the brightest stars in the Asian Games sky, cruised home in the first heat at Khalifa Stadium Monday morning in 13.74 seconds, 0.86 seconds off the world record he set in July 2006 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"I'm tired and dizzy after getting up so early at 5:40 this morning, and failed to make a fine start after another sprinter of my heat committed a false start and then started ahead of the signal gun buzzed," Liu said. "But it's no big deal. I made the final and everything will be OK," he added.
The defending champion Liu, holding the Asian Games title he won in Busan in 13.27, will run the final on the last night of the athletics competition on Tuesday.
China dominated Monday's athletics events, winning three out of nine gold medals on offer, although all the golds came from the women.
Asian champion Xie Limei set the tone for China with victory in the women's triple jump event. Teenager Xue Fei surprised all to capture the women's 5,000m title. The 17-year-old, making her first Asian Games appearance, clocked 15 minutes 14.12 seconds, ahead of Japan's Kayo Sugihara (15:40.87) and Indian Jaisha Orchatteri (15:41.91).
The trio broke free together into the final lap, but Xue sped up in the last few pace to shake off pursuit from Sugihara and Orchatteri.
"With about 50 meters left to run, I realized I could win the race," said Xue, the 5,000m winner at the world youth championships last August.
China then made a 1-2 finish in the women's discus final, with Song Aimin taking gold and teammate Ma Xuejun claiming silver.
Guo Jingjing, another of China's superstars, who won two diving gold medals in the Athens Olympic Games, kept the limelight at the Hamad Aquatic Center together with her partner Li Ting, easily winning the women's 3m synchronized springboard crown.
In front of a full-house audience, Guo and Li kept their nerve and shone forth with a class of their own by totaling 337 points, beating their closest rivals Nishi Ryoko/Yamashita Misako of Japan, who posted 287.40 points, by more than 50 points.
With the synchro victory, Guo become the most successful female diver in Asian Games history with four gold medals.
The day's other diving gold also went to China. Huo Liang and Lin Yue went away with the men's synchronized 10m platform title.
Beach volleyball became China's domain as Zhou Shun/Li Jian and Xue Chen/Zhang Xi won the men's and women's gold medals respectively.
The Chinese also came out on top in sailing and canoe/kayak, claiming three golds out of four in canoe/kayak and two out of three in sailing.
South Korea, determined to consolidate their No. 2 sports power status in Asia, clean-swept all four golds in golf.
Elsewhere, Japan beat South Korea 27-26 with a last minute try to win the rugby gold medal.
A fourth positive drug test was announced on Monday, with a second weightlifter from Myanmar disqualified. Oo Mya Sanda, 29, was stripped of the silver medal she won in the women's 75kg category.
With four days to go, China is almost certain to win beat the 150 gold-medal haul obtained in the Busan Asian Games four years ago.
(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2006)