Athletes sweat it out for Asian Games

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Athletes sweat it out for Asian Games

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With the mercury going as high as 33 degrees centigrade (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on a recent summer afternoon at the training camp for Korea’s national athletes, the groups of men in full workout mode were drenched in sweat.
A total of 327 athletes for 14 sporting events, including track and field, wrestling and handball, are currently lodging at the Taereung Athletic Village to train for the upcoming Asian Games, which run from Dec. 1 to 16 in Doha, Qatar.
At the games in Busan in 2002, the Korean national team took second place with 96 gold medals. The current crop of athletes say they are determined to do as well this time.
“The heat can’t stop us from practicing,” said Lee Jin-il, the track and field coach, who said cross-country hiking is a good method for training track-and-field athletes who go through the routines in Mount Bulam just behind the training camp.
The mid- and long-distance runners spend practically their entire day on the mountain, Mr. Lee said. He said his athletes go through short but intense training in the mountain forest during the day to escape the scorching sunlight. Twice a day for two hours, starting at 5 a.m. and at 5 p.m., the athletes undergo demanding exercise regimens such as cross-country running to build their endurance and strengthen their hearts and lungs. When fatigue sets in, they take a break and soak their feet in a nearby stream. The typical midday siesta has been limited to one hour, however, for fear that the athletes will become listless in the hot weather, Mr. Lee said.
“The results in the Doha Asian Games will depend entirely on the intensity of the summer training,” said Baek Hyun-sup, head of training support team. “We are trying our best to provide a cheerful atmosphere for the athletes. Air-conditioning, training facilities and meals are some of the things we consider important.”
In order for athletes to increase their stamina in the hot weather, the team’s nutritionists make sure the athletes have “energy food” at least once a day. This is mainly Korean dishes reputed to increase one’s stamina, such as doganitang (cow kneecap soup), samgyetang (chicken broth with ginseng) and dishes containing broiled eel or fish.
The national taekwondo team, typically a sure-fire gold medal winner, undergoes training that is no less intense. The athletes are given a short break only after their morning training regimen and breakfast. After that, at 10 a.m., their physical strength exercises start, and from 3 p.m., the players do nothing but fight.
“National athletes have no choice but to endure the hot weather,” said Yoon Sang-wha, the coach for the national taekwondo team. “The training will continue under any circumstances.”
The wrestling team moved up its practice to 6 a.m. from the previous 10 a.m. training. Every morning, the athletes run around the track and over Mount Bulam’s cross-country course. At 4 p.m., the players move to the gymnasium and work out on the mat, rehearsing wrestling moves.
“I think we work up at least a bucket of sweat every day,” said Kang Kyung-il, a gold medallist in Greco-Roman wrestling.
For the speed walking team, however, things are easy. According to coach Lee Min-ho, over-the-top training could do nothing but spoil the athletes’ condition. The athletes train just as intensely as anyone else, he said, but he lets the members use their break time to go fishing at a nearby stream. “They seem to like it a lot,” he said.
In order to avoid the heat, some teams moved their training sites to places at higher altitudes ― some as high as 1,330 meters (4,363 feet). The boxing team took its 26 fighters to a branch training camp on Mount Taebaek in Gangwon province, where the temperature is 20 degrees centigrade at its hottest and drops to 10 degrees at night.
“This is the best place for physical training,” said Oh In-suk, the boxing coach. “Seoul is too humid at the moment and that does not help boxers practice more.”
Athletes of 11 other events are also being trained outside Taereung village. The equestrian team is training in Seoul, the golf team at the Woo Jeong Hills Country Club in Cheonan, South Chungcheong province, and the shooting team is training at a range in Cheongwon, North Chungcheong province. The men’s basketball team and women’s bowling team are currently in an international tournament. Athletes for seven other events, including judo and hockey, are training overseas.


by Shin Dong-jae

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