Judo team set to topple world champions

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Judo team set to topple world champions

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Bang Gui-man, left, and Wang Ki-chun pose in this file photo. By Kim Min-gyu

The national judo team is ready to topple the defending world champions in their own backyard.

The Korean national team placed second behind Japan at the 2009 World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. But Korea appears to be up to the challenge with 14 male and 14 female Korean judokas set to compete in this year’s World Judo Championships in Tokyo from Thursday to Sept. 13. It is boasting one of its strongest teams to date with two world-class competitors in several weight class divisions.

Leading the way for Korea will be Wang Ki-chun in the 73-kilogram (161 pounds) division. Korea has traditionally been dominant in this weight class and Wang has been a force in his young career. The 22-year-old is currently ranked first in the world and is gunning for his third consecutive world title.

Wang first gained prominence among Korean judo fans for defeating the 2004 Beijing Summer Games gold-medalist Lee Won-hee in the national qualifications tourney. Wang would go on to place first at the 2007 World Championships at the age of 19.

Despite settling for a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games because of a fractured rib cage, Wang came back to have his strongest season to date in 2009 by defending his world title in Rotterdam and winning all Grand Slam competitions, as well as setting an all-time consecutive win record at 52.

Aside from Wang, Korea boasts another top competitor in Bang Gui-man. Ranked second in the world, the 27-year-old gained national attention at the Suwon World Masters 2010 in January when Wang’s consecutive winning streak came to a halt in the second round and Bang placed first. With Wang recovering from an injury to his left elbow, Bang has a solid shot at placing first in Tokyo.

“I will be counting on the top ranked judokas on our team but rankings are merely numbers,” said men’s team manager Jung Hoon in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “In the sport of judo, a winner can be decided in a split second. Competitors have to rely on their physical conditioning and luck on that particular day. You never know who might win the gold.”

Aside from Wang and Bang, Korea is hoping for a medal from 2008 Summer Games gold medalist Choi Min-ho in the 60-kilogram division. Kim Joo-jin and Ahn Jung-hwan will vie for medals in the 66-kilogram division.

Kim Jae-bum is another favorite to medal in the 81-kilogram division while Lee Kyu-won will attempt to defend his world title in the 90-kilogram division. And Hwang Hee-tae and Kim Soo-wan in the 100-kilogram and +100/open division are other contenders.

Competitions start Thursday at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium with the +100 and 100-kilogram divisions, while the 73-kilogram competitions take place on Saturday.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

내일부터 세계선수권대회, 체급별로 2명까지 출전 가능, 성적 따라 이름 바뀔 수도



대한유도회는 지난 6월 선발전을 치러 11월 광저우 아시안게임에 출전할 대표 선수들을 추려냈다. 하지만 마지막 반전의 기회가 남아 있다. 9일 일본 도쿄에서 개막하는 세계유도선수권대회가 그 무대다.

세계유도연맹은 이번 선수권대회부터 체급별로 같은 나라 선수가 두 명까지 출전할 수 있도록 규정을 변경했다. 그동안 체급별 한 명씩만 출전해 유도 강국의 상위 랭커들이 대회에 나서지 못하는 폐해를 없애기 위한 조치다.

한국도 체급별로 두 명씩의 선수를 파견한다. 정훈 남자유도 대표팀 감독은 “이번 선수권대회 성적에 따라 아시안게임 출전 선수가 바뀔 수 있다”고 밝혔다. 아시안게임에는 체급별로 한 명씩 출전하기 때문에 이미 대표로 선발된 선수도 태극마크를 빼앗길 수 있다는 뜻이다.

대표 1진과 2진의 실력은 그야말로 종이 한 장 차이다. 대표적인 게 66㎏급이다. 6월 대표 선발 최종전에서 1위에 오른 김주진(수원시청)은 2008년 베이징 올림픽에 이어 올해 아시안게임 출전권까지 따냈다. 하지만 지난해에는 안정환(포항시청)에게 밀려 세계선수권에 나가지 못했다. 김주진은 “아시안게임 출전 기회를 빼앗기지 않겠다”고 각오를 다졌다. 안정환은 “이번 대회에서 가장 이기고 싶은 선수는 김주진”이라며 복수전을 준비하고 있다. 73㎏급의 내부 경쟁도 치열하다. 세계랭킹 1위 왕기춘(용인대)의 아성이 견고하지만 2위 방귀만(상무)의 도전이 만만찮다. 게다가 왕기춘은 왼 팔꿈치 부상으로 기술을 제대로 구사할 수 없다. 세계선수권 대진은 랭킹에 따라 짜인다. 둘은 상위 시드를 받게 돼 순조롭게 경기를 치른다면 결승서 만날 수도 있다.


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