CHANGCHUN, Northeast China - China continued their gold rush with two more from the snow sports and another on the speedskating rink while South Korea overtook Japan for the second overall place at the sixth Asian Winter Games on Thursday.
With the last 12 gold medals at stake on Friday and Saturday, China kept their lead 15-15-18, South Korea placed second (9-12-9) and Japan dropped to third (8-4-10). Kazakhstan stood in fourth place with three golds, four silvers and five bronzes, while Mongolia were the only other country on the tally with one bronze.
At the Beidahu ski resort in Jilin, the venue for all snow sports of the Games, Olympic champion Han Xiaopeng claimed the men's freestyle aerials and woman biathlete Liu Xianying won the 15km individual race for the hosts.
Han, 24, beat his ankle injury to score the best of 223.89 points in a field of eight athletes, his first Asian gold medal, and the second for China in the freestyle skiing after Olympic silver madalist Li Nina won the women's aerials on Wednesday.
"Chinese skiers are too good for the opponents and we have a handful of top athletes for aerials," said Rao Gang, manager of the Chinese freestyle team.
"Our main threats come from Belarus, Canada and the United States. Before the 2010 Winter Olympics, we must learn much more difficult aerials step by step and try to do it stably," said Han.
Han's teammates Qiu Sen, Liu Zhongqing and Li Ke occupied the next three spots, and Japanese Kotaro Kurata, fifth in the group, was only awarded a shared bronze under the new competition rules which prevent any team from a clean sweep of the medals at the Games.
"The Chinese skiers are great, it is hard to beat them now," said Kurata, the number one aerials skier in Japan.
Chinese women biathletes Liu Xianying and Kong Yingchao had a 1-2 finish in the 15km individual race, splitting the gold and silver medals between themselves for the third time in a row at the Games.
And China would make a clean sweep of the women's events if they take the 4x6km relay on Friday.
"We are good enough to win, but we can not take anything for granted," said German Klaus Siebert, head coach of the Chinese biathlon squad. "We have to fight for the gold."
Kazakhstan registered their third gold medal as Alexandr Chervyakov beat Chinese Zhang Qing to win the men's 20km individual biathlon event.
Japan demonstrated their supremacy in Alpine skiing again when veteran Yasuhiro Ikuta won the men's giant slalom title.
From the rink, the women's and men's 1,000 meters, the last events of the speedskating tournament, both China and South Korea registered 1-2-3 finish respectively.
China dominated women's event with Wang Beixing being crowned twice in another Asian record of one minute 17.35 seconds after winning the 500m on Tuesday. The former record of 1:19. 17 was held by South Korean Kim You-Lim.
Her fellow Chinese Wang Fei, the first double gold medalist here, finished in 1:17.54, adding a silver to her medal tally. Ren Hui was third in 1:18.84.
"We did not expect such a good result before the Games," said Wang Beixing. "For me, the big goal is to do better in the Winter Olympics in 2010."
Meanwhile, the men's race was dominated by South Korea as Lee Kyou-Hyuk, winner in the men's 1,500m, became the third double winner by finishing the 1,000m in 1:09.86.
Teammates Mun Joon, the former Asian record holder, took the silver in 1:10.45, followed by Choi Jae-Bong in 1:10.92. Both surpassed the previous record of 1:11.74.
In the overall speed skating medal standings, China led by five golds out of 10 on offer, all of which were taken by their women skaters.
In both the men's and women's curling finals, South Korea defeated Japan twice, a 3-2 victory for men and a 7-6 win for the women.