Endurance Race Debuts at Games in Qatar

Horses galloped through a race in the Arabian desert for the first time in any Asian Games Dec. 14 while a number of more conventional sporting pursuits were completed back in the city.

As the regional games, which have attracted 10,500 athletes in 39 sports, completed the last full day of competition, Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, a member of the United Arab Emirates ruling family, outrode a collection of fellow Persian Gulf state royalty to win the equestrian endurance race.

The event, making its debut at these games, had a field of 51 horses and began at sunrise. There was little of the sun, however, as the riders were forced to negotiate their way around desert tracks and dunes, often in a heavy rain.

Sheikh Rashid, son of the ruler of Dubai, finished the 120-kilometer, five-stage event in five hours 45 minutes 49 seconds. Bahrain's Sheikh Nasser Bin Hammad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, son of the king of Bahrain, was second and Dubai businessman Sultan Bin Sulayem won the bronze.

Sulayem rides on the Emirates team along with four sons of the Dubai ruler, but says no favoritism is shown.

"We are a real team, no doubt," Sulayem said. "The Sheikh trains us, I feel equal to his sons. You might even see him advising riders from other countries, because he wants everyone to improve."

More than 40 medals were presented on Thursday and leading China picked up 17 more golds, thanks mostly to dominating the final day of the martial art of wushu and another two in diving, sweeping all 10 in that sport during these games.

With a late gold medal in women's basketball, China will finish with at least 164 golds, easily surpassing its 150 total from the last games in 2002. It has 106 more gold medals than second-place South Korea.

Just two gold medals were be awarded on Friday, when the host country Qatar was set to feature in both the soccer final--against Iraq--and in the basketball gold game, against China.

Nicol David of Malaysia, the world's No. 1-ranked squash player, won her seventh tournament in a row, beating Hong Kong's Rebecca Chiu 9-0, 9-3, 9-3 in the final.

In the softball gold final, Yukiko Ueno struck out seven batters as Japan trounced Taiwan 7-0.

South Korea beat China 3-1 twice in finals--for the field hockey and volleyball gold medals.

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The Associated Press

www.ap.org

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