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Kazakhstan keeps Asian Games medal lead
Weather postpones many events
By Vsevolod Hvan
ASTANA/ALMATY – Heavy rains postponed several downhill skiing events on the fourth day of the 7th Asian Winter Games while Kazakhstan added to its medal count with golds in ice hockey, ski orienteering and freestyle skiing.
Heavy rains in the lower part of Almaty and snow in the mountains delayed competition in the slalom and in ski jumping. Rain ruined snow that ski jumpers need, making their event impossible. Meanwhile, the biathlon course turned into solid ice.
Undaunted skiers competed anyway in the cross-country classic races. In the women's 5km event, Japan's Masako Ishida, who won silver a day earlier in the women's 10km free race, took gold. Her compatriot Madoka Natsumi won silver. China's Li Hongxue took bronze, leaving Kazakhstan's Yelena Kolomina just short of a medal in fourth place.
"I love rain," Natsumi said afterward, "For me rain during a race is a good sign; I've won a lot in such weather."
After the women came the men’s 10km classic. Kazakhstan's Aleksei Poltoranin led for the first 3km but faltered. Keishin Yoshida (Japan) triumphed by 30 seconds. Kazakhstan's Nikolai Chebotko took silver, while Poltoranin held on for bronze.
"We were exhausted," Chebotko said. "We've competed for three days straight. On a (weather-affected) course like today's, we used up all our strength. It's good for us that tomorrow is a day off. We intend to beat the Japanese in the relay."
In Soldiers' Gorge, rain ended after lunch, but a new problem – an all-enveloping fog – set in. It forced a three-hour delay of the women's 15km biathlon. Judges let the event proceed for only 10 minutes because participants could not even see their targets. It will continue February 4, weather permitting.
Ski orienteers, though, held their event. In the long-distance event, for the third time orienteers produced no surprises. Kazakhstan's Mikhail Sorokin and Olga Novikova won gold in the men's and women's races, respectively. Another Kazakhstani duo, Aleksei Nemtsev and Yevgeniya Kuzmina, took silver. Men's bronze went to Bayaraa Gerelt-Od (Mongolia), women's bronze to Kim Ja Youn (South Korea).
"I wasn't afraid to ski in such fog," Sorokin said. "I was in the mood to race. In some places you gain time; in other places you lose it. (But) if there hadn't been fog, I'd have finished faster."
"During the race, it rained and then snowed heavily," Galysheva said. "But that weather didn't bother me at all." Novikova said she would "make a special place for (my medals) so I can show them only to people close to me. As for the race, I had fine visibility where I raced. I've competed before in thick fog, so it was no problem."
Two golds went to Kazakhstani freestyle skiers. On their last day of competition they tackled dual moguls. Kazakhstan's Dmitry Reiherd, heavily favoured to win the men's event, shockingly lost in the quarter-final to eventual bronze medallist Choi Jae-Woo (South Korea). Kazakhstan took gold anyway, because Dmitry Barmashov stepped up after Reiherd flagged. Japan's Osamo Ueno won silver.
In the women's competition, two Kazakhstanis – Yuliya Rodinova and Yuliya Galysheva – battled for gold, with Galysheva prevailing.
In men's figure skating, Kazakhstan’s figure skater Denis Ten leads after the short program, scoring 76.22 points – 42.04 for technical elements and 34.18 points for presentation. Japanese Machida Tatsuki came in second with 71.58 points, followed by compatriot Mura Takahito at 67.78 points.
In ice dancing short dances, Kazakhstan’s Victor Adonyev and Victoriya Kucherenko fell during a lift because Adonyev was ill with a fever of 38C, according to Kazakhstan figure skating coach Yury Guskov. The pair came in fourth behind Chinese and Japanese pairs.
Kazakhstan's women's hockey team took gold for the second time in the Asian Games by defeating China 4-1.
The day ended with Kazakhstan still nursing a substantial lead in the medal count. The hosts have amassed 46 medals (17 gold, 17 silver, 12 bronze). Second in gold medals is South Korea with 10 (24 total, including 6 silver and 8 bronze), while Japan is third with 8 gold (33 total, including 14 silver and 11 bronze).