By Nick Butler at the Main Media Centre in Incheon

Mutaz Aissa Barsham celebrates high jump gold for Qatar ©Getty ImagesTwo of the continent's biggest sporting names, high jumper Mutaz Aissa Barsham and badminton superstar Lin Dan, each won gold today at the Asian Games, but it was Kazakhstan who had most to smile about after dominating a packed day of canoe sprint finals.

They won five of the 12 gold medals on offer at the Hanam Misari Canoe/Kayak Center to reclaim the mantle of best performing nation in the sport 16 years after they last did so at an Asian Games, at Bangkok 1998.

Yevgeniy Alexeyev and Alexey Dergunov began the procession with victory in the K2 1000 metres, before brothers Mikhail and Timofey Yemelyanov, and then Natalya Sergeyeva and Irina Podonikiva, followed suit in the respective C2 1000m and women's K2 500m finals.

There were further victories for the central Asian nation in the men's K4 1000m and for 28-year-old Inna Klinova in the women's K1 200m, as she edged-out Chinese rival Zhou Yu. 

Yevgeniy Alexeyev and Alexey Dergunov taking the first of five Kazakh canoe sprint titles, in the K2 1000m event ©Getty ImagesYevgeniy Alexeyev and Alexey Dergunov taking the first of five Kazakh canoe sprint titles, in the K2 1000m event ©Getty Images

China managed 10 medals including three golden ones, but, after being far less dominant than they have been in the last three Games, were frank in admitting they have fallen behind. 

"The level of Asian canoeists has heightened," said Zhou Yu, winner over 500m before missing out to Klinova over the shorter distance.

"The Chinese team is very nervous about the other teams' improvements."

As if to rub salt into the wounds, there was then a Kazakh victory over Chinese opposition in beach volleyball.

Alexey Sidorenko and Alexandr Dyachenko proved more penetrating in attack and more stoic in defence as they spiked and smashed their way to a 21-15, 21-10 victory over Chen Cheng and Li Jian.

China, as ever, did have much to smile about elsewhere.

They managed two titles apiece in diving and in badminton, where Dan underlined his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport by overcoming world champion and compatriot Chen Long 12-21, 21-16, 21-16.

It was his fourth Asian Games title to add to a collection that also includes two Olympic and five world titles.

Lin Dan celebrates yet another major badminton title ©AFP/Getty ImagesLin Dan celebrates yet another major badminton title ©AFP/Getty Images

While he has some way to match the medal haul of Dan, Barsham is Asia's most successful global track and field star of recent years,

Earlier this year Qatar's Olympic bronze medallist cleared a stunning 2.43 metres, coming within a fingertip of Javier Sotomayer's 21-year-old world record of 2.45.

He was always likely to prove too much for the opposition tonight, winning with a Championship record clearance of 2.35m ahead of China's Zhang Guowei and younger brother Muamer Aissa Barsham.

The only disappointment was that he did not manage a world record attempt, retiring with the gold medal already won after two narrow failures at 2.40m

It was another great evening for Qatar in athletics, with Moroccan-born Mohamad Al Garni adding the 1500m title to the one he won over 5,000m earlier in the Games, before Sudanese-born Abubaker Ali Kamal, who returned from a two-year doping ban in January, won the 3,000m steeplechase.

Other nations to enjoy strong days were Thailand and India, winners of two gold medals apiece, Iran, who won three in wrestling, and Uzbekistan, who won two canoe sprint events before further victories in wrestling and athletics, the latter for heptathlete Ekaterina Voronina.

South Korea also won twice today, but experienced heartbreak late this evening when North Korea scored in the 93rd minute to beat their southern counterparts 2-1 in the women's football semi-final.

North Korea will face Japan in the final on Wednesday (October 1). 

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