18th Asian Games Palembang 2018
Malaysia, Japan ends Korea's Masters stronghold
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27th August, Palembang: Malaysia's Muhd Rafiq Ismail and Japan's Mirai Ishimoto ended Korea's stronghold in the Masters event by winning the prestigious Men's and Women's gold medals of the concluding 18th Asian Games Palembang 2018.

Topseed, Rafiq edged defending champion and third-seed, Park Jong Woo of Korea, 534-511 in a two-match total pinfall stepladder finals. Park took a 21-pin lead after he beat Rafiq, 266-245 in the first match.

But the 21-year-old Trios silver medallist bounced back brilliantly to win the second match, 289-245 and earned his first-ever Asian Games gold medal. He won the Team silver medal at his first Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in 2014.

Park, who settled for the silver medal, had earlier edged team-mate and second-seed, Koo Seonghoi, 254-245 in the all-Korean semi-final match for a crack at winning a back-to-back Masters gold medal but found his opponent too hot to handle.

Muhd Rafiq and Mirai Ishimoto with their first gold medals

Park was extremely lucky to have made the stepladder finals. In the position-round match of the second block Masters preliminaries, he had slipped down to sixth and faced Singapore's Muhd Jaris Goh.

He defeated the Singaporen, 267-256 to end with a total of 3910. Chinese Taipei's Lin Pai-Feng, who had finished fourth and faced third-placed Takayu Miyazawa of Japan, suffered a 7-10 split in his final frame to end with 3902 despite beating the Japanese, 233-187 handling third place to Park.

Rafiq brushed aside Koo, 252-207 to earn topseed for the stepladder finals with 4005 while Koo was seeded second with 3980. Korea had won the Men's Masters gold medal in the last three Asian Games and the Rafiq had broken their stronghold with his victory.

Meanwhile, Ishimoto defeated second-seed and challenger, Lee Yeonji of Korea, 481-473 in the two-match total pinfall stepladder finals. The 21-year-old 2016 World Youth Masters gold medalist took the first match, 240-229 for a slender 11-pin lead.

Despite narrowly losing the second match, 241-244, her 11-pin lead was enough to clinch Japan's gold medal in the games and also denied Korea their third consecutive Asian Games Masters victory.

Lee Yeonji had earlier dispatched team-mate and another defending champion, Lee Nayoung, 230-211 in the all-Korean semi-final match to reach the final.

Silver and bronze medallists, Park Jong Woo and Koo Seonghoi

Ishimoto ended the earlier second block Masters preliminaries and faced second-placed Lee Yeonji in the position-round match in which she easily beat the Korean, 244-209 for a total of 3948. Lee Nayoung, who was placed third, also lost her match to fourth-placed Joey Yeo of Singapore, 221-243.

But Lee Nayoung's total of 3854 secured her place in the stepladder finals as second-seed. Lee Yeongji's total of 3847 was 10 pin more than the Singaporean's 3837, placing the Korean in third position.

Korea topped the tenpin bowling overall medal tally with 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals with both the gold medals coming from the 6-player Team event in the men and women divisions. Malaysia finished second with 2 gold and 2 silver medals.

Malaysia won the Women's Trios gold medal and Rafiq won the Masters gold medal. Their first silver came from the Men's Trios event and their second silver from the women's 6-Player Team. Japan went home two gold medals, one from Ishimoto's in the Masters and the other from the Men's Trios event.

98 men and 69 women from 18 countries competed in only the Trios, 6-Player Team and the Masters for the first time in the Asian Games history for a total of six gold medals. Also for the first time in the Asian Games history, the new World Bowling Scoring System was used.

Lee Yeonji and Lee Nayoung settling for the silver and bronze medals

The quadrennial Asian Games was co-hosted by two cities, the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province. Approximately 17,000 athletes from 45 countries participated in Asia's biggest sporting event.

Photos by Terence Yaw in Palembang, Indonesia.

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