Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Yuika Sugasawa’s last-minute header earned Japan the Asian Games gold medal in pouring rain in Palembang with a 1-0 win over China in the women’s soccer final.
A half hour later on a humid Friday night 400 kilometers (250 miles) away in the Indonesian capital, Japan beat India 2-1 for gold in the women’s field hockey.
So Japan went 2-for-2 in the big finals in the co-host cities on the eve of two team finals that will overshadow the last full day of competition at the games.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min needs one last win to get an exemption from military service, and that needs to be against Japan.
The South Korean government rewards Asian Games gold medals and Olympic medals of any kind with an exemption from national service. Son, one of three over-age “wild card” players in the South Korea team, wants to lead from the front as captain.
Plenty of people in England are keeping track of his progress, a long way from the Premier League.
“I will return to my club with South Korea’s victory,” Son was quoted as saying. “I know I have to move first and be an example.”
Son missed the Asian Games on home soil in 2014 when South Korea won. Helping his team win a record fifth Asian Games title will mean he no longer has to worry about a potential almost two-year interruption to his Premier League career — and millions in income.
In women’s basketball, the Koreas have joined forces and are one win away from gold. There’ll be nine South Koreans and three from the North on the combined team that takes on China in the final. That medal, be it gold or silver, won’t be added to the tally for either country but instead will join the gold and two bronze medals already attained by the joint Koreas teams entered in three sports.
South Korea added to its tally with a bronze in women’s soccer with a 4-0 win over Taiwan.
Unbeaten Japan was a favorite for the women’s title, entering as Asian Cup champion and 2015 Women’s World Cup runner-up.
But the wet conditions and a relentless Chinese attack held Japan scoreless until the 90th minute, when Sugasawa’s glancing header beat China goalkeeper Zhao Lina to finish off a counterattack.
China had 14 shots to Japan’s four, and five on target, including Gu Yasha’s left-foot strike in the 75th that Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita tipped away.
China has an unbeatable lead in the medal standings with one full day of competition remaining, with 117 gold medals and 261 overall on completion of 419 events. Japan is next with 69 gold and 189 medals in total, followed by South Korea (43/160) and host Indonesia (30/93).
Earlier, Japan won the women’s triathlon through Yuko Takahashi, and Japan and South Korea split the five judo gold medals 3-2.
Sarah Lee Wai Sze won the women’s sprint title for her second track cycling gold medal at these Asian Games and her record fifth for Hong Kong in her career.
“I thought that the gold medal was not the most important, but the qualification time is really meaningful for me, because it’s almost an Asian record,” Lee said. “And also, I thought it’s also top three in the world, so I hope that I can really have some good races in the World Cup or in the world championships.”
Lee won an Olympic bronze in 2012 and world title in 2013 in the keirin, and wants to sign off with gold in Tokyo in 2020.
“It is every athlete’s dream to win the gold medal at the Olympics,” she said. “I hope to get the gold medal in two years’ time.”
While Lee’s win fulfilled expectations for Hong Kong, Jai Angsuthasawit picked up an unexpected track cycling gold for Thailand to break a 48-year drought.
Jai had never previously got close to a major title before winning the men’s keirin from Yudia Nitta of Japan and Azizhulhasni Awang of Malaysia, a world champion and Olympic bronze medalist.