[SPORTS VIEW]For some stars, the shine will continueTwo of the predictions I made last year were fulfilled recently. Goalkeeper Lee Woon-jae, a star of the national team in last year's World Cup and the biggest fish in the free agent pool, re-signed with the Suwon Samsung Blue Wings last week. And the Korean Football Association has selected Manuel de Jesus Coelho as its coach for the national soccer team, and officials expect the former star from Portugal to accept the post.
While I am on a roll I should stick my neck out for predictions for the rest of the year.
First, in professional soccer, I see Suwon Samsung improving on last year's third-place finish to take the crown. The Blue Wings won their last nine games of the regular season, even though the team had a very busy year -- it played 10 more games due to exhibition games abroad. In addition, it had to give up players to the national team, while Seongnam Ilhwa, which took the title, was able to keep its team intact.
Another World Cup star, Ahn Jung-hwan, will struggle playing in the Spanish Primera League, provided he is really going. The physical play over there will give him fits.
In baseball, I am looking for a repeat of last season -- the Samsung Lions will have the best regular season record and win the Korean Series again. Their roster will not change much, and now that the curse is gone -- until last year they had never won a Korean Series title in umpteen tries -- they should play even better.
Samsung's slugger and last year's league MVP, Lee Seung-yeob, will have another outstanding year. Nevertheless, I don't see him making a move to North America, even though he had vowed to go the big show after this year.
Abroad, I have high expectations for Choi Heui-seob, playing for the Chicago Cubs. He has the stuff to become the rookie of the year.
In golf, expect another good year for Koreans. Last year, Seri Park won five LPGA tournaments, while three other Korean female golfers, Kim Mi-hyun, Park Ji-eun and Park Hui-jeong, added four more. The only male Korean on the PGA tour, Choi Kyung-joo, made headlines with two PGA titles and a third-place finish with partner Huh Suk-ho at the world golf championships.
The females will add another member to their winners' club: Han Hui-won. And watch out for Kang Su-yeon, who will play for the first time on the tour. Expect at least 10 wins from the woman warriors -- accounting for about a third of the LPGA titles. And Choi? He'll repeat last year's achievements with two more titles.
Tennis? The only real Korean pro to watch is Lee Hyung-taik. But Lee is something to watch: He just beat Andy Roddick, an American ranked 10th in the world, at the Sydney International.
Currently, Lee is ranked 85th. The highlight of his career was three years ago at the U.S. Open, when he beat Franco Squillari, an Argentinian who was ranked 11th at the time, and advanced to the round of 16 where he fell to Pete Sampras.
Will Lee crack the top 50 this year? No, but he'll climb to at least 60th.
Now for one more crystal-ball call: Will Lee Jun-bok get rid of his belly? Who's that you ask? Jun-bok is my Korean name.
I don't know the answer.
by Brian Lee
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