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Emotional Clash of the Koreas as China Forge Ahead in Medals
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An emotional meeting of North and South Korea on the basketball court grabbed the Asian Games centre stage on Thursday as China blazed a golden trail at the top of the medal standings.

In the end South Korea's win over North Korea was emphatic - 101-85 - but the result was quickly lost in the symbolism of the moment as players from both teams mingled after the final buzzer.

"We didn't talk much," South Korea's Seo Jang-Hoon said. "We just said, 'Nice game. We were really glad to play with you.'"

After 10 seconds, the moment passed. Reunification of the political rival nations was again left to politicians. But having North and South national hoop teams meet for the first time on the Korean peninsula was a landmark moment.

"It has a very large meaning that we played together on the same court," South Korea coach Kim Jin said. "We are the same people, the same blood.

"That we could be united is very important for all the Korean people. I really hope we could play as the same team some day."

Korea has been divided since an armistice halted the Korean War in 1953. No peace treaty has ever been signed. Calls for reunification have grown in recent months and North Korea's delegation is to aid that cause.

South Korea won for the sixth time in as many meetings against the North Koreans to aid their chances of advancing from Group Two. They next play Sunday against Hong Kong, who lost to Kazakhstan 82-77 Thursday.

But tournament details were secondary to the idea of Korean unity.

"The meaning of this game is it's more important than the outcome of the game," Seo said. "It was my honor to play. I really want to play someday as one Korea."

With 41 gold medals at stake on Thursday it was athletes from China who again ruled the roost.

Most attention focused on their team's battle in the swimming pool with Japan. The two rivals shared six golds, with China now leading 13-9 in the swimming gold standings.

Leading the way for China was breaststroker Qi Hui, who narrowly missed her own world record on her way to gold in the 200m.

Qi had the form to set the second world swimming record in as many days after coming close to her 2min 22.99sec mark in competition this year.

And the powerful 17-year-old Chinese army recruit exploded from the blocks, going neck and neck with teammate and 100m breaststroke champion Luo Xuejuan until the last 25m when she pulled free to win in 2:24.01.

As expected China was challenged in the gymnastics, winning both the men's and women's individual all around events.

Yang Wei, the senior statesman of the team, took the men's title and rising star Zhang Nan won the women's gold.

It was again a clean sweep for China, and meant double gold for Yang and Zhang, after they had earlier won the men's and women's team events.

Meanwhile, China won both golds on offer in the men's and women's weightlifting events, with Liu Xia setting a world record on her way to gold in the 63kg division before Zhang Guozheng scored an easy division in the 69kg class.

China also dominated the rowing competition, wrapping up a successful campaign with 12 out of 13 golds. Only Japanese scullers Daisaku Takeda and Kazushige Ura prevented a clean sweep for China, with a win in the lightweight double sculls.

Japan meanwhile enjoyed a successful end to their judo campaign, with the supremely gifted Olympic and world light-heavyweight champion Kosei Inoue overcoming a weight disadvantage to strike gold in the premier open class.

Elsewhere in the men's football competition, Thailand, South Korea and China guaranteed their places in the quarter-finals with victories over the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India respectively.

(China Daily October 4, 2002)

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