Rowing championships begin in Chungju

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Rowing championships begin in Chungju

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Athletes competing in the preliminary round of the men’s quadruple sculls in Chungju, North Chungcheong, at the World Rowing Championships, which kicked off yesterday. [NEWSIS]

The World Rowing Championships kicked off a week-long run in Chungju, North Chungcheong, yesterday. It is the first time Korea has hosted the tournament.

Around 1,340 athletes from 74 countries will compete in the event, which runs through Sept. 1 at the 6.2-square-kilometer (2.4-square-mile) Lake Tangeum. The opening ceremony on Saturday attracted such dignitaries as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Denis Oswald, president of the International Rowing Federation (FISA).

“The world of rowing is honored to be in Korea for the 2013 World Rowing Championships,” said Oswald during the opening ceremony at the Tangeum International Rowing Regatta Main Stage.

It is only the second time that rowing, still predominantly a Western sport, has held its most important event in Asia. Japan hosted the rowing worlds in Kaizu, Gifu Prefecture, in 2005. Chungju won the rights to host the World Championships in 2009.

“You all embarked on the complex mission of designing and then building this world-class rowing venue - a mission which you completed successfully in just four years,” the Swiss official said. “FISA and World Rowing would like to welcome all of the rowers who have trained so hard this year to make these championships a memorable regatta with the best racing the world of rowing has to offer.”

Ban also addressed the rowers, likening the unity of a rowing team to the global unity the UN strives for. “Your challenge is to win the race against each other,” said Ban. “But we, as a human family, are in a race against time to address poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation. I count on you to be part of our team. Rowers know better than anyone the importance of moving together toward a common goal.”

A total of 27 gold medals are up for grabs at the Chungju worlds.

In yesterday’s preliminaries, Korea’s Lee Hak-beom qualified for the second round after finishing third in the lightweight men’s single sculls with a time of 7 minutes 32.73 seconds.

Ji Yoo-jin, who won a silver medal at the Rowing World Cup in Australia in March, Korea’s best-ever result in the sport, finished fifth in lightweight women’s single sculls, failing to get a berth to the second round. However, she will get another shot at the second round in a consolation match.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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