Five top athletes at the Asian Games

Five top athletes at the Asian Games

From swim sensation Rikako Ikee to giant-killer Anthony Ginting, AFP takes a look at five athletes who stood out at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia:


Rikako Ikee

Teenage star Rikako Ikee scooped a Michael Phelps-esque six gold medals for Japan. The 18-year-old won eight medals in all — the most by any athlete at the Games — and was declared the most valuable player.


But Japan´s new golden girl told AFP that this is just the beginning. “It gives me confidence knowing I can beat my Asian rivals, it´s a big step in the right direction,” she said. “Now the plan is to become a world champion.”


Anthony Ginting

Anthony Ginting stole Chinese shuttlers´ thunder to give Indonesia some of its best moments of the Asian Games. The 12th-ranked Ginting stunned Japanese world champion Kento Momota and reigning Olympic champion Chen Long of China before settling for bronze in the men´s singles. Ginting´s teammate Jonatan Christie won gold after taking down China´s Shi Yuqi in the opening round.


Lalu Muhammad Zohri

A sprinter who could barely afford shoes before winning the 100m gold at the world junior championships in Finland is now Indonesia´s most popular athlete. Lalu Muhammad Zohri was already an inspiration to millions of national sports fans before he made the cut for the 100m final in Jakarta. The 18-year-old placed seventh in the race but was part of the silver-winning team in the 4x100m relay.


Hailing from an impoverished family, Zohri´s dilapidated home was renovated on instructions from the Indonesian president Joko Widodo after his achievements at the under-20 stage. A rags-to-riches journey that inspired Indonesia to their best-ever finish in Asian Games history: fourth place with 31 golds.


Son Heung-min

“Will he, won´t he” was one of the biggest Asian Games stories as Son Heung-min chased gold for South Korea in his bid to avoid 21 months of military service. The Tottenham Hotspur star ducked every question posed on the topic but his nerves at each knock-out stage were evident.


As one of the three over-age players permitted to take part in the under-23 event in the Asian Games, Son proved his worth by guiding his team to a 2-1 win over Japan in the final. His arms raised and face beaming when the final whistle blew, everyone knew the mission had been accomplished. A military salute for the champion.


Swapna Barman

It´s not common to have twelve toes and it´s even more unusual for those who do to win Asian Games gold. But India´s Swapna Barman showed it was possible after clinching the heptathlon title despite extreme pain caused by her ill-fitting shoes.


The daughter of a rickshaw-puller hailing from a small town in West Bengal state, the 21-year-old defied the odds to achieve glory in an event where India had never got gold. And life is looking brighter for the woman with six toes on each foot as a government-run enterprise came forward to help Barman find a pair of shoes that fit.


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