Korean team left high and dry at event in Uzbekistan

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Korean team left high and dry at event in Uzbekistan

A group of Korean athletes were stunned when they arrived in Uzbekistan for an international championship to be told that the events they flew seven hours to compete in had been cancelled.

The 20-member Korean delegation - consisting of four gymnasts, managers, coaches and a team doctor - arrived in Tashkent on May 6 to compete in the Eighth Senior Rhythmic Gymnastics Asian Championships at Gymnastics Sports Palace from May 8 to 10.

However, when they showed up for a meeting on May 7, the Asian Gymnastics Union (AGU) which sanctions the event, advised them without prior notice that the group event was cancelled, referring to the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) World Cup slated to take place next week as the excuse. Two of the four Korean gymnasts were to compete in the group event.

The cancellation affected Korea and other countries who had travelled from across Asia to compete.

Enraged representatives of the Korean delegation and other nations demanded the organizers come up with a solution.

“We’ve confronted the AGU about the matter,” said a staffer from the Korean gymnastics governing body. “After making our case, it’s been arranged that the gymnasts who were originally planning to participate in group events could compete in individual events.”

The AGU also sent a letter of apology to the participating countries for their sudden change of schedule, although the letter itself was an insufficient compensation for the countries who had expended a considerable amount of time, effort and money to take part in the event.

The four Korean gymnasts who trained and travelled to Uzbekistan were Son Yeon-jae, Chun Song-e, Lee Da-ae and Lee Na-kyung. They were picked after the two rounds of national team qualifiers with Son and Chun placing first and second while Lee Da-ae and Lee Na-kyung finishing third and fourth.

While Son and Chun were given the chance to participate in individual events in Uzbekistan, the two Lees were scheduled to compete only in the group event. The unexpected cancellation, however, forced them to participate in the individual events despite their weeks-long training for the group events.

This is not the first time the AGU’s administration has come under criticism. The Eighth Senior Rhythmic Gymnastics Asian Championships was originally a biennial competition which was due to be held in 2017. Instead, the AGU decided to hold the event this year and even moved up the date from June to May, causing disarray amongst participating countries and athletes.

Despite the upheaval, the four Korean rhythmic gymnasts are performing well, with Son leading the standings midway as of Monday with 36.950 points aggregated from the ball and hoop events.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]

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