By Sportswriter Cao Jianjie
SAPPORO, Japan, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- China swept the curling titles and ice dancing crown at the Asian Winter Games on Friday, but its pre-Games prediction to finish second overall has proven to be way beyond its reach.
China beat Japan 11-4 to win the men's curling final, thanks to a decisive six points garnered in the fourth and fifth stanzas, while its women side rallied to a 12-5 victory over South Korea on Friday night.
Ice dancers Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu held their lead from the short dance to win China's eighth gold with two days left in the week-long games.
With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics less than one year away, China had been seeking a second-place finish in Sapporo, where China believes Japan would use its home advantage and skiing prowess to become a run-away leader.
"We will be striving for second, against South Korea and Kazakhstan," said Huang Lixia, the Chinese official in charge of the training of the national teams, before the Games.
Japan remains atop at the medal table with 19 golds, including five from Friday, while South Korea is second on 14 despite a goldless day.
Kazakhstan is closing in on China after winning two more golds from the day to stand fourth on five in total.
As South Korea is unreachable, China is even being threatened by Kazakhstan, which is the overall winner in last Games held in Almaty and traditionally strong in skiing that offers 12 golds on the last two days.
Pundits said Chinese athletes were unprepared for the Asiad, as South Koreans went all out to test themselves ahead of PyeongChang 2018 and the Japanese wanted to prove the money spent on Sapporo's third continental games was worthwhile.
China's lopsided victory over Japan in the men's curling final might be a consolation.
Neither team could seize the chance in the first three ends with China the first to take the lead with the last stone in the fourth, scoring three points for a 4-2 lead.
China had a 3-0 in the fifth end when Japanese skip Yusuke Morozumi failed to clear a critically placed Chinese stone.
"I'm thrilled we were able to win the match," China coach Marcel Rocque said. "The game looked easy, eventually, but the first three ends both teams were very hesitant, you could sense the nerves on both teams and the two skips."
The nerves could also been sensed in the Chinese women's team as they were 2-3 down after the third end and hanged on to a 6-5 lead after the sixth.
Then the Chinese were fired up, scoring one, two, three in the following three ends to wrap up the victory.
Skating to "New York, New York," the Chinese ice dancers combined dazzling steps sequences and powerful lifts to score 98.26 points in free dance for the winning total of 162.28.
Chris Reed and Kana Muramoto of Japan came second with 159.14 points and another Chinese pair Chen Hong and Zhao Yan took the bronze with 142.42 points.
Japan swept five golds on Friday, winning men's 4x10km and women's 4x5km relays in cross-country skiing, men's large hill individual in ski jumping, men's dual moguls in freestyle skiing, as well as men's 12.5km pursuit in biathlon.
Japanese cross-country skier Yuki Kokayashi bagged his third gold in the Asiad while his compatriots Naoki Nakamura and Yuken Iwasa swept the top two in ski jumping.
Kazakhstan took two golds from men's 4x10km relay in freestyle skiing and women's 10km pursuit in biathlon.
Nine events, including pairs and women's figure skating, are up for grabs on Saturday.