The 19th Asian Games, which will officially open on Saturday in Hangzhou, is anticipated to remain a three-way battle with hosts China seeking to emerge triumphant.
HANGZHOU, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- China's athletes are gearing up to reaffirm the host nation's dominant status at the Asian Games, as a showdown between the continent's traditional powerhouses in the medal standings takes center stage.
China, South Korea and Japan hold unparalleled dominance in Asian sports. In the overall medal count from previous Asian Games, South Korea ranks third behind China and Japan, but has secured 500 more gold medals than fourth-placed Iran.
Billed as the world's second largest multi-sport event after the Olympics Games, the Asian Games serves as a primary platform for these three giants to flex their sporting muscles.
The 19th Asiad, featuring over 12,000 athletes competing in 481 events across 40 sports, is also viewed as a litmus test for Asia's athletic capabilities leading up to the 2024 Paris Olympics. Additionally, nine sports in Hangzhou will act as Olympic qualifiers, offering 74 slots.
China made its Asian Games debut in Tehran in 1974 and secured top spot from Japan at New Delhi in 1982. Since then, China has remained top of the medal table at every Asiad. South Korea has finished runner-up on seven occasions, with Japan taking second place three times in the last 10 editions.
China's dominance peaked in Guangzhou 2010 with a haul of 199 gold medals. South Korea and Japan followed with 76 and 48 golds, respectively.
At the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, China claimed 151 titles, with the hosts securing 79 and Japan 47. At Jakarta 2018, Japan surpassed South Korea for second place, earning 75 golds to South Korea's 49, while China led with 132.
At a team inaugural ceremony in Beijing last week, Chef de Mission of China's delegation, Gao Zhidan, expressed determination to lead the 886-athlete squad to another top finish.
"The whole team should make concerted efforts to demonstrate China's sporting strength," Gao emphasized, urging athletes to excel in both Hangzhou and Paris.
South Korea and Japan, with record Asian Games delegations of 867 and 771 athletes respectively, are equally ambitious. South Korea is aiming for a significant comeback in Hangzhou, as reported by Yonhap.
"This year's Asian Games will mark a new beginning for South Korean sports," stated Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), referencing South Korea's lowest Asiad gold medal count since 1982. South Korea had finished second at every Asian Games from 1998 to 2014, but was edged into third place in 2018 with 49 golds, 26 fewer than Japan.
The KSOC's goal for South Korea is a third-place finish in Hangzhou, behind China and Japan, targeting 45 to 50 gold medals. This projection was deemed "unusually modest" by the country's state news agency.
Represented by 191 athletes in Hangzhou, the DPRK might pose unexpected challenges in events like weightlifting, gymnastics, boxing and football.
Beyond these major players, there are a bunch of notable athletes from other countrie and regions to watch out for in Hangzhou. Javelin world champion Neeraj Chopra of India is aiming for his second consecutive Asiad gold, while Thailand's world No. 2 shuttler Kunlavut Vitidsarn will hope to capitalize on his recent World Championship victory.