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Gold in hand: Speed conquers size in team handball

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Dec 14,2006
The Korean women’s handball team kept its grip on the gold medal for the fifth straight Asian Games, defeating Kazakhstan 29-22 early yesterday. With the men’s handball team reeling from a controversial semifinal loss to Qatar, the women stepped up against a tough Kazakhstan defense. Moon Pil-hee scored a game-high nine points, and Woo Sun-hee, battling anemia, added six points. The women entered the final with a chip on their shoulder. “After watching our men lose on bad calls, we wanted to prove that Korea is the best handball nation in Asia, no matter what,” Moon said. “I am sure they’re glad we got the gold.” There were no complaints about the officiating in the women’s final. The team got off to a slow start, going scoreless early in the first half. At first, the Koreans had difficulty getting past the taller Kazakh defenders. But Korean coach Kang Tae-koo said his players took advantage of their quickness in the second half. He also said conditioning was a factor. “In the second half I told our players to pass the ball around a lot and get on fast breaks as much as possible,” Kang said. “I could see Kazakhstan getting exhausted as the game wore on.” He also said that exhibition matches in Hungary and Romania helped Korea prepare for taller opponents. “In the end, we were in better shape,” Kang added. “We trained more than seven hours a day to improve our teamwork and fitness level. I am proud of our players.” Kang also asked sports fans in Korea follow handball with more passion in non-Asian Game or non-Olympic years. “We bring home a bunch of gold medals from Asiads and Summer Games, but then we fall off the radar within weeks,” Kang said. “We all play hard to win medals for our country. I hope to see more people in the stands at local tournaments.” Meanwhile, the Asian Handball Federation rejected a joint request by Korea and Qatar for a rematch of their semifinal, saying there were no grounds to warrant it and that the result, a 40-28 win by Qatar, was refereed fairly. The Korean team, which was considering a boycott of the bronze medal match against Iran, decided to play. In archery Wednesday, the Korean men’s team won its seventh consecutive Asiad gold, following the example of the women, who won their third straight gold in the Asian Games. As expected, Korea swept all four gold medals available in archery. The bicycle racers did well, too. Cycling track continued to be a pleasant surprise for the Korean delegation, as two more medals were added to the cycling tally. Choi Lae-seon won a silver in the men’s sprint and You Jin-a picked up a bronze in the women’s sprint. Korea has three golds, a silver, and five bronze medals in cycling track in this Asiad. Silver was the color of the day in fencing, boxing and wrestling. For the second straight day, the men’s and women’s fencing teams came up short in the gold medal matches. The latest victims against the powerhouse Chinese fencers were the Korean men’s sabre team and the women’s epee team. Koreans had one last crack at gold early this morning in men’s epee and women’s foil. In the boxing ring, Korean boxers closed out the Doha games without a gold, the first time that has happened in eight years. Silvers, however, went to bantamweight Han Soon-chul and light heavyweight Song Hak-sung. The gold-medal loss was poignant for Han, who wanted to dedicate a gold medal to his late father. Last Saturday was the anniversary of the senior Han’s passing. “As soon as I get home, I will visit my father’s grave and show him my silver medal,” Han said. “I am disappointed that I couldn’t win the gold, especially when my teammates were also coming up short. I will do better in Beijing in two years [at the 2008 Summer Olympics].” In freestyle wrestling, Cho Byung-kwan failed to defend his gold in the 74-kilogram (163 pounds) class, losing to Ali Asghar Bazrighaleh of Iran. “I tried too hard today,” Cho lamented afterward. “The opponent came out defensively, and I was on the attack early on. Then later, I couldn’t defend his counterattacks.” The 25-year-old Cho may get another shot at gold, but Song Jae-myung will not. In the 60-kilogram class, the 32-year-old Song lost to Iran’s Seyed Morad Mohammedi Pahnehkalaei for his second straight Asiad silver. Song then announced his retirement from the national team. “This is it for me on the international stage,” said Song, whose wife is four months pregnant. “I will just try to become a good father.” As the Doha Asian Games enter their last day, Korea was ahead of Japan in the medal standings in the battle for second place. Korea had 51 gold medals to Japan’s 49. China, host of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, has been overpowering from day one. by Yoo Jee-ho


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