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Soccer: South Korea Face Iran, Jayasinghe Goes for Double
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Hosts South Korea face defending champions Iran in the semi-finals of the Asian Games soccer tournament on Thursday, while in athletics Sri Lanka's Susanthika Jayasinghe will go for a women's sprint double.

South Korea will hope to go one better than at the World Cup when they take on Iran. Five of the squad that reached the June semi-finals are in the under-23 squad here, but the Korean team have yet to hit their stride.

Iran, aiming for a fourth Games title, will be a different proposition, even without experienced striker Ali Daei, who flew home before their 1-0 quarter-final win over Kuwait after the death of his father.

Japan, who have made the last four for the first time since 1970 and have never won the gold, will be confident of ending the interest of plucky Thailand in the other semi-final at Ulsan's World Cup stadium.

Sri Lankan golden girl Jayasinghe, the Olympic 200m bronze medallist, will be going for a sprint double after winning both events before her home fans at the Asian championships in Colombo in August.

The 27-year-old set a new Asian Games record of 11.15 seconds in her 100 metres heat on Tuesday and matched that to win the final after a slow start. She now intends to focus on the 200 instead of the 100 for the Athens Olympics.

"I am going to focus on the 200 metres in the future. My aim is the 2004 Olympics. I want the gold medal," she said.

Jayasinghe was second in her heat on Wednesday behind Viktoriya Kouyreva, but should win gold. Her rivals include the Kazakh, who won the heat, plus 100 silver medallist Uzbek Lyubov Perepelova and India's Saraswati Saha, who also won her heat.


In the men's 200 metres Japan's Shingo Suetsugu should be the man to beat. The heir apparent to Koji Ito, who won the sprint double four years ago in Bangkok, Suetsugu won his semi-final in 20.45 seconds but has recorded sub-20 seconds in training.

The men's 5,000 metres looks more open. Asian champion Khamis Abdullah Saifeldin of Qatar and experienced Japanese duo Toshihiro Iwasa and Tomohiro Seto all have a chance of taking the gold medal.

India have another gold medal prospect in the women's 1500 with Sunita Rani, who made a triumphant return from injury this season after two years out with a stress fracture.

If Rani can get near her season's best of 4:08.60, close to her national record of three years ago, she will be hard to beat. China's Liu Xiaoping could also be among the medals.

Damayanthi Darsha should take gold for Sri Lanka in the 400 after recovering from an injury that restricted her at the Commonwealth Games and forced her out of the individual events in Colombo. She has entered just the 400 and not the 200-400 double, which she won in Bangkok.

Even a fully-fit Darsha would find it difficult to match the smooth-running Indian K M Beenamol, who strolled to victory in the 800 on Tuesday. Beenamol has improved in the 400 and beat Darsha in an Asian Grand Prix meet at the start of the season.

Peng Yun and Su Yiping should preserve China's supremacy in the women's 100 hurdles. Japan's Asian champion Yvonne Kanazawa, the national record holder and fifth in Bangkok, should get a medal.


The men's decathlon concludes with the 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500. Kazakhstan's Dimitriy Karpov leads after the first five disciplines from China's 19-year-old Qi Haifeng and Qatar's Ahmed Hassan Musa.

South Korea's Lee Jin-Taek, now 30 but still the best high jumper in Asia since China's Zhu Jianhua, has had a poor season but will be ready to take on the youngsters, including China's Cui Kai and Wang Zhouzhou.

Song Aimin or Ma Shuli could add to China's gold tally in the discus but India's Neelam Jaswant Singh may provide an upset, though her record in competitions abroad has not matched her performances at home.

In the pool, world champion Guo Jing Jing and Chinese team mate Wu Min Xia, who won gold in the three metres springboard synchronised diving on Tuesday, will be clear favourites in the individual competition.

Gold medals will also be up for grabs in canoeing, downhill cycling, equestrian, modern pentathlon, weightlifting and taekwondo, where South Korea will again be among the favourites.

(China Daily October 10, 2002)

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