As Games near, athletes positive

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As Games near, athletes positive


Son Yeon-jae, Jin Jong-oh and Park Tae-hwan

With the 2014 Incheon Asian Games only a month away, the athletes who will represent Korea are increasing their training for the event, which will take place in the western port city from September 19 to October 4.

The country’s goal is to win more than 90 gold medals and take second place after China, which has dominated the Asian games for more than a decade. Achieving its target in Incheon would make it the third time for Korea to secure more than 90 gold medals, also marking the fifth consecutive overall second place finish. Korea won 93 gold medals in the 1986 Seoul Games and 96 in the 2002 Busan event.

About 13,000 athletes from 45 nations will compete in 36 sports disciplines including aquatics, archery, gymnastics, rowing, taekwondo and wrestling.

Korea aims to claim 48 gold medals in seven core sports - shooting, fencing, archery, taekwondo, tennis, bowling and golf.

The host expects to win up to 15 gold in shooting, led by star Jin Jong-oh, 35, who has won four Olympic gold medals - three in the men’s individual 50-meter handgun and one in the individual 10-meter air pistol.

But Jin hasn’t impressed in his past three Asian Games appearances. In 2002 and 2006 he claimed a bronze in individual 10-meter air pistol, then won silver in the individual 50-meter handgun in 2010 in Guangzhou.

Regardless, there are signs that Jin will succeed. He claimed a gold medal in the individual 10-meter air pistol in the shooting World Cup in Beijing earlier this month and won three gold medals in two previous World Cup events.

“I think I’m in my best shape,” Jin said. “I’m very motivated to win my first Asian Games gold medal in an individual event.”

The fencing national team is looking to repeat its glory of the 2010 Guangzhou Games when Korea won seven gold, two silver and five bronze medals. Korean fencers also won two gold, one silver and three bronze in the London Olympics.

And hopes for Incheon are higher than ever after the team won nine gold, five silver and two bronze in the 2014 Suwon Asian Fencing Championship in July. London Olympic bronze medalist in men’s epee, Jung Jin-sun, 30, will lead the men’s team, while Choi In-jeong, who won the epee in Suwon and Shin A-lam, who won silver in the group epee, will lead the women.

“I think our biggest rival will be China,” said Shim Jae-sung, the national fencing team coach. “The key to success for the team is to stay and play calm in front of the home crowd.”

In swimming, “Marine Boy” Park Tae-hwan, the first Korean swimmer to win gold in the Olympics who has also won six gold medals in two Asian Games appearances, is aiming to be the back-to-back-to-back winner in the men’s 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle. He will also compete in the 100-meter freestyle, the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys, as well as the 800-meter group relay.

Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae, who won bronze in Guangzhou, is also going for gold in Incheon.

BY kwon sang-soo []

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