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Dominant China end Games on a high
(AFP)
Updated: 2005-11-07 07:08

China won the East Asian Games football final to cap a dominant performance in Macau, where they took a record number of gold medals and leapt forward in their preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

A goal from the head of midfielder Chen Tao was enough to beat North Korea 1-0 and secure the 127th title of the Games for China, who have unearthed a host of fresh talent for 2008.

China won seven of the final day's 17 events in what amounted to a quiet display from the tournament's runaway leaders, who finished 81 golds clear of second-placed Japan on the medals table.

China have won 26 of the 42 athletics titles, 33 out of 42 in swimming, 11 from 16 in gymnastics and 12 out of 15 in weightlifting.

A perfect record in the diving competition was spoiled only by a rare lapse from world champions Yuan Peilin and Jia Tong, who received a dressing-down for failing to win the 10m synchronised platform.

"I think we need to do some soul-searching after losing in sports where we have such an advantage," said deputy chief of mission Cui Dalin.

"The performance in the third and fourth dive was not good and in my opinion the divers should learn from this experience and see what they can do to improve."

But China could also celebrate the tournament's only world record, a 117kg clean-and-jerk by women's weightlifter Yang Lian, and eight Asian swimming marks.

Top prospects for Beijing include Zhang Lin, who smashed the Asian 1,500m men's freestyle record; 13-year-old Wang Qun, who beat Olympic champion Luo Xuejuan in the women's 100m breaststroke; and Ouyang Kunpeng, who secured a third Asian backstroke record here.

Olympic heroes Liu Xiang and Guo Jingjing also put in appearances as China did their best to drum up interest in the tournament, which has suffered from a lack of fans.

In the final events on Sunday South Korea had their first swimming successes through 16-year-old Jung Ji-yeon and Park Tae-hwan, who set a new Games record in the men's 400m freestyle.

Takeshi Matsuda won the 200m butterfly in a tournament-record 1min, 56.72sec as Japan won four karate golds to close on 46, ahead of South Korea on 32 and Taiwan on 12.

Macau moved up to 11 golds for the Games in fifth place, ahead of North Korea, Hong Kong, Mongolia and tiny Guam, thanks to Cheong Chi-un's victory in the men's over-75kg karate.

South Korea won the men's hockey final before China rounded off the tournament in fitting style with victory in the Games' showpiece event.

Led by Celtic defender Du Wei, China secured their first Games football title in four attempts and avenged a 3-1 loss to North Korea earlier in the tournament.

"I'm really happy to get the gold medal -- this is the fruit of our great efforts in the past few months," said Du, who said he was happy to fly back from Glasgow for the under-23 tournament.

"When the national team calls me back, of course I'm willing to help the team and gain honour for our nation. It's my task and my honour to do that."

In a final which lacked sparkle, neither side looked threatening until Chen rose unmarked to meet substitute Wang Ke's corner, prompting celebrations among local fans in the mainly empty Macau Stadium.

Away from the competition, North and South Korea held talks here on fielding a joint team for next year's Asian Games, setting a date to thrash out details.



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