By Jean Malanum

BEST. The Japan men’s water polo team climb the podium after ruling the 11th Asian Age Group Championships undefeated at New Clark City Aquatics Center in Capas, Tarlac on Saturday (March 9, 2024). Japan beat Iran, 17-13, in the final. (AAGC photo)

CAPAS, TARLAC – Japan defeated Iran, 17-13, in the final of the 11th Asian Age Group Championships men’s water polo competition at New Clark City Aquatics Center here Saturday night.

Skipper Kai Inoue, who earned the Most Valuable Player award, and Sota Hombe scored four goals each for the Japanese squad, which played solid defense to claim the championship with a 6-0 record.

Japan’s women’s team also had an unbeaten run to the gold, capped by a 24-6 whipping of Uzbekistan prior to the men’s matches.

“We are happy to win the gold medal,” coach Shota Hazui, who played in the Olympics and Asian Games, said.

Hazui also served as assistant to coach Yoshinori Shiota during the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Qatar.

Before winning the finals, Japan beat China (14-11), Saudi Arabia (23-5), Thailand (26-8), Uzbekistan (32-13) and Kazakhstan (20-10).

Iran, on the other hand, beat Malaysia (34-3), Sri Lanka (34-0), Kazakhstan (12-10), Singapore (19-8) and China (7-5).

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan defeated China, 7-4, to settle for the bronze medal in the tournament supported by the MVP Sports Foundation, Pinay In Action, the Philippine Olympic Committee and Philippine Sports Commission.

Singapore downed Uzbekistan, 15-10, to finish fifth while Saudi Arabia nipped Malaysia, 14-13, for seventh place. (PNA)