Top stars see Gwangju as practice for the Olympics

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Top stars see Gwangju as practice for the Olympics


In this Summer Universiade in Gwangju, top Korean sports stars aiming for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are also showing their stuff. For them, the global competition for university athletes can be considered a tune-up.

According to the Universiade organizers, 48 percent of Olympic medalists were also medalists in the Universiade. Some athletes have continued on from a strong Universiade performance to win gold at the Olympics the following year.

For instance, marathoner Hwang Young-cho won the 1991 Universiade in Sheffield, England, before taking gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, while judoka Lee Won-hee repeated her gold medal run in the 2003 Universiade in Daegu at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

In men’s gymnastics, Yang Hak-seon is ready to break his recent slump in form. The 22-year-old Gwangju native, nicknamed “God of Vault,” won gold at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, then took gold medals at the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo, the 2012 London Olympics and the 2013 Worlds in Antwerp, Belgium.

However, Yang failed to win a gold at the Incheon Asian Games last year, settling for a silver medal due to a thigh injury. He also failed to medal at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, China.

The graduate student of Korea National Sport University is aiming to reclaim the top spot at this Universiade and may show off his signature technique, nicknamed “Yang-2” - a 1,260 degree twist.

Recurve archer Ki Bo-bae is also preparing for a successful return. The 27-year-old played a pivotal role in the women’s team gold-medal win at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, and went on to sweep both the individual and team events at the 2012 London Olympics. In the 2013 World Archery Championships in Turkey, she won gold medals in women’s team and mixed team event.

Ki failed to make the national team last year and joined the Incheon Asian Games as a television commentator. But the graduate student of Kwangju Women’s University will aim to repeat her performance in the 2011 Universiade, where she triple crowned by winning individual, women’s team and mixed team events.

Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae will be looking for her first gold at the Universiade. The 21-year-old Yonsei University student in 2013 won the silver medal in ball, but now will be looking to become the overall champion.

Son, the Incheon Asian Games gold medalist, suffered an ankle injury earlier this year, but is on the mend. Last month, she took third at the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and also won the Senior Rhythmic Gymnastics Asian Championships.

In badminton, the 2008 Beijing Olympic gold medalist Lee Yong-dae will aim to defend his title. The 26-year-old is currently No. 1 in the men’s double along with Yoo Yeong-seong, but since Yoo is not competing, he will team up with Ko Sung-hyun.

Lee, who is a graduate student in Kyonggi University, won the men’s double and mixed double at the 2013 Summer Universiade with Ko.

In judo, 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medalist and two-time World champion Wang Ki-chun will also compete, in the under-81-kilograms (under-179-pounds) category. He won the gold medal in the under-73-kilograms category at the 2013 Summer Universiade.

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