Korea, Japan fight to keep martial arts dominance

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Korea, Japan fight to keep martial arts dominance

TOKYO - Japan is ready to emphasize its comeback in judo by fielding seven world champions at the Asian Games, where Korea’s supremacy in taekwondo will be put to the test by a new electronic scoring system. The other traditional Asian-born martial arts of wushu and karate are also marked with increasingly tough competition while they struggle to secure a future place in the Olympics.

The Guangzhou Asian Games give Japanese judokas, who won a record 10 gold medals at the world championships in Tokyo in September, a chance to avenge their 2006 Doha Games humiliation.

The Japanese men further suffered from a record-low Olympic haul of two medals in Beijing in 2008 and an unprecedented title drought at the 2009 world championships before this year’s four-gold comeback.

“It’s going to be quite a tough battle,” Kazuro Yoshimura, technical director at the All-Japan Judo Federation, told AFP.

“Central Asian countries are getting stronger while Koreans are obsessed with gold medals, which could exempt them from military service,” Yoshimura said. “Hosts China will surely go for it all in the women’s game.”

The Japanese men’s team features Daiki Kamikawa, who beat French giant Teddy Riner in the open-weight final in Tokyo, denying him a record fifth world title.

On the women’s team is Mika Sugimoto, who won the world over-78kg and open titles by beating Qin Qian in the absence of Tong Wen from China, who dominated the heavyweight class since 2005 but was banned for doping in May.

The centuries-old Korean fighting sport of taekwondo is experiencing a change in its scoring system after a judging controversy in Beijing threatened to kick it off the future Olympic program.

“The system has changed so it’s hard to predict how we will do,” Korea’s Asiad coach Ryoo Byung-kwan told AFP. “But one thing for sure is that it has become harder for Korean players who are not used to the new system.”

Korea has maintained its taekwondo supremacy since winning seven out of eight men’s titles at the sport’s Asiad debut in 1986.

Karate has been on the Asiad menu since 1994. when Japan won nine out of 11 titles.

In 2006, Japan’s haul stood at four against three for Iran and two for Kuwait in 2006. Vietnam, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan won one each.

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