Javelin thrower aiming for a shot at Worlds

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Javelin thrower aiming for a shot at Worlds

There was no competition. After finishing his first throw, Jung Sang-jin packed up his javelin and walked off the field as the clear winner in the 40th National Division Athletic Championships in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, on Friday.

The 27-year-old Jung’s 78.68-meter throw was far from the Korean record of 83.99 meters, set by his idol and national team teammate, Park Jae-myung. Park, who was kept out of the event by a hamstring injury, set the record in 2004 at the New Zealand Athletic Championships.

Still, it was an achievement for Jung. Korean national team coach Kim Ki-hoon said that Jung’s record was good considering the rain made throwing conditions less than ideal.

“The ground was slippery, so he couldn’t run much faster,” Kim told Ilgan Sports. “If the weather had been good, his record would have improved by more than four meters.”

For Jung, the title was a boost of confidence, which he’ll need when he competes in the 2011 World Championships in Athletics in August.

Jung made the national team in 2003 and is considered the face of javelin in Korea. He threw 80.89 meters at the Daegu National Athletics Championships last year, becoming the second athlete in the nation after Park to throw more than 80 meters.

People expected Jung would eventually break Park’s Korean record. He was young and had the ideal physique for the sport.

Instead he has been plagued by injury. Last October he injured his right shoulder and missed the National Sports Festival. And at the Guangzhou Asian Games, Jung suffered two broken ribs and had to watch Park collect the silver medal.

“That’s the tournament that I want to erase from my memory,” Jung said. “I was hurting so much that I even cried while throwing.”

But Jung put everything he had into his rehabilitation, eventually earning the right to participate in training in Hong Kong in February.

For Jung, 2011 is an important year, especially with the World Championships in August. But his place on the roster hasn’t been confirmed yet. In order to participate, he will need to earn at least a “B” standard (79.5 meters) ranking by June. But he has set his sights high and is aiming for better than the “A” standard (82 meters).

Each country can send a maximum of four players to Worlds, three “A” standard athletes and one “B” standard athlete.

If two javelin throwers fail to qualify as “A” standard but do qualify as “B” standard, one player needs to go home. And for the Korean national team, Jung may have to be the victim since his record and international experience cannot top Park’s.

Jung knows that qualifying as “B” standard still does not guarantee him a position on the national team but he has vowed to try. And his ultimate goal is to get a shot at the Worlds.

“Since I was in middle school, I’ve always looked to Park as the one to catch,” Jung said. “My goal is not to set a new Korean record, but to play at the finals in Daegu this year.”

By Kim Woo-chul, Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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