The Olympic ideals of diversity and inclusiveness were cast aside at the Asian Games today when the Qatari women’s basketball team took a stand against rules regarding headgear and quit the competition.
Denied permission to wear hijabs in their group opener against Mongolia a day earlier, and with no hope of intervention from organisers or the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the Qatari women failed to show up for today’s game against Nepal and declared their Asian Games over.
The Games are also over for Cambodia’s Yi Sophany, who became the second athlete to fall foul of anti-doping rules, the OCA said. The soft tennis player follows Tajikistan footballer Khurshed Beknazarov, who was thrown out of the multi-sport event on Tuesday after testing positive.
The sixth day of competition at the Games, which have welcomed 9,500 athletes from 45 countries to the port city of Incheon, saw world records fall and new stars rise. Kim Un Ju became the third North Korean weightlifter to break a world record on the way to winning gold by lifting 164kg in the clean and jerk, adding 1kg to the mark Russian Nadezhda Yevstyukhina set in 2011.
Like compatriots Kim Un Guk and Om Yun Chol, she dedicated her feat of strength to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
‘Even if it’s just a little bit, I wanted to bring happiness to the people who supported me and to our Marshal,’ she said. The anticipated two-horse race between South Korea’s Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon and his North Korean rival Ri Se Gwang failed to materialise as Hong Kong’s Shek Wai Hung catapulted himself to the top of the podium.
‘There was Yang Hak-seon, who won at the Olympics and who was supposed to win,’ said Shek. ‘However, I felt like I had nothing to lose since there are many other great athletes here so I just tried my best and I feel happy with the result.’ JAPAN AHEAD World records also fell to dead-eyed South Koreans in compound archery and trap shooting. Kim Mi-jin set a new mark in the double trap to win gold, and immediately ran to celebrate with her young son.
‘I drew this, wishing for my mom to win the gold medal,’ said her son, showing off a drawing that read: ‘Go Mom! Asian Games!’ Ji Yoo-jin won the lightweight women’s single skulls but those were the only two golds the hosts would win today.
Fierce rivals Japan, who are determined to beat South Korea to second place on the medals table for the first time since 1994, picked up eight titles. Three of those golds came in the pool where Ryosuke Irie won the men’s 200m backstroke, Satomi Suzuki the women’s 50m breaststroke and Japan’s women took the 4×100 medley after favourites China were disqualified in the heats.
Despite the medley mistake, China matched Japan’s gold medal tally in the pool, with Shi Yang denying Singapore student Joseph Schooling his second butterfly gold of the Games. ‘Now I have gold, silver, and bronze so I don’t feel that bad,’ said Schooling. ‘I hate losing. In the 50m you never know what is going to go wrong. Deep down, I am disappointed.’
South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan had to settle for silver once again in the pool that bears his name, well beaten by Chinese 100m freestyle express train Ning Zetao. ‘China’s Ning did great, he has something I could learn from,’ said Park, the 400 freestyle gold medallist from Beijing. China’s Bi Yirong won the punishing women’s 800m freestyle, finishing six seconds ahead of team mate Xu Danlu, but thought she could improve further.
‘Today’s performance was much better than a few days before,’ she said. ‘The timing wasn’t good today, however, so I want to improve on that.’ China padded their Incheon haul to 79 golds and 155 medals overall, while Japan inched above South Korea into second, tied on 28 golds but with three more silver and one more bronze medal than the hosts.
An official form Incheon’s organising committee (IAGOC) said he had sympathy for the Qatari players but that the Games had to follow FIBA’s regulations. ‘We can’t change FIBA regulations right now even if we consult with them,’ the official told Reuters by telephone. ‘Personally I feel sorry for them. All the other sports allow hijabs.’
Subscribe to our email newsletter.