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China rowers win first gold of Asian Games

China's national flag is displayed as performers take part in the opening ceremony of the Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on 23 September 2023. (Photo by ADEK BERRY / AFP)

Host nation China won the first gold medal of the Asian Games on Sunday when Zou Jiaqi and Qiu Xiuping dominated the women’s lightweight double sculls rowing final.

The Chinese pair finished in 7 minutes and 6.78 seconds, with Uzbekistan’s Luizakhon Islamova and Malika Tagmativa taking silver, almost 10 seconds behind. Indonesia’s Chelsea Corputty and Rahma Mutiara Putri won the bronze at the Fuyang Water Sports Centre.

Medals are up for grabs in nine sports on day one of the 19th Asian Games, with hosts China expected to top the table.

Swimming will see seven finals later on Sunday, while shooting, wushu, gymnastics, fencing, judo, taekwondo, and modern pentathlon will all crown gold medallists.

Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the Games on Saturday night in a colorful ceremony, launching a two-week sporting extravaganza that boasts more athletes than the Olympics.

After being delayed by a year because of China’s now-abandoned zero-Covid policy, more than 12,000 competitors from 45 nations and territories will battle it out in 40 sports.

Although the Games officially opened on Saturday, sports such as football, cricket, volleyball, and table tennis had already begun preliminary rounds.

The Games will be staged at 54 venues — 14 of them newly constructed — mostly in Hangzhou but also extending to cities as far afield as Wenzhou, 300 kilometers (180 miles) south.

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