Athletes in final stretch before Summer Games

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Athletes in final stretch before Summer Games

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The 2016 Summer Olympics is only a month away. The Rio Games is significant in many ways, including it being the first Olympics held in Latin America since 1968. For Korean athletes, they hope to achieve a historical feat by finishing in the top 10 in medal standings for four straight Games.

The Olympics is slated to kick off August 6 and run until its finale on August 22. Following its motto, “Live Your Passion,” fans across the globe will witness more than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries vying for 306 sets of medal in 28 events.

At the moment, the Olympics is mired in challenges, with many world-class athletes such as golfer Jason Day opting out, citing reasons such as Zika virus. Still, for most of the athletes, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win glory for themselves and for their countries. Many of the athletes traveling to the quadrennial sporting event have been preparing all their lives, shedding blood, sweat and tears for a shot at Olympic gold.

Korean athletes are no different. While for some, this will be their second or third Olympics stage, for the majority, this is their only chance to grab Olympic gold.

Athletes such as Jin Jong-oh of shooting may as well feel at home this summer in Brazil. Pocketing three Olympics golds and two silvers, he now aims to top the 50-meter pistol event for the third consecutive time.

But for shooter Kim Jun-hong, this will be his first shot at an Olympics medal.

“Since I started shooting, the Olympics has always been my dream,” said Kim. “I am quite thrilled and nervous about going to my first Olympics.”

Kim has been overshadowed by Jin until recently and was never deemed a likely candidate for an Olympics medal. That all changed during the 51st International Shooting Sport Federation World Championship in Granada, Spain in September 2014 when Kim topped the men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol event. He was in the spotlight again when he earned four medals, two golds and two silvers during the Incheon Asian Games in the same month.

As of Tuesday, Kim is ranked fourth in men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol.

While rosters for most events are decided, those for events such as golf and swimming are yet to be finalized.

The roster for the women’s golf team will be finalized in accordance with the world rankings as of July 11. Four top golfers in the Rolex Rankings will be eligible to play in Rio, where golf is returning to the Summer Games for the first time in a century. As of Tuesday, five players are in the top 10 of the world rankings. Park In-bee, who is ranked the first among Koreans, is ranked third in the world, and Jang Ha-na, who is ranked fifth among Koreans, is 10th in the world. Despite the current rankings, Olympics berths for Korean female golfers will continue until this weekend, during the U.S. Women’s Open. This is because there is a plausible chance that Park will forfeit her position on the squad due to health issues. This places Jang as the final member of the team, although the roster may change according to the result of the coming LPGA event. After Jang, Ryu So-yeon is the runner-up for the spot as she is currently ranked 11th, sixth among Koreans.

In swimming, disgraced swimmer Park Tae-hwan is waiting for the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent international institution that helps athletes and related organizations settle disputes.

Park has finished serving his suspension after being banned by the International Swimming Federation for doping. Even so, the Korean Olympic Committee has rejected his participation, citing its regulation that bans an athlete suspended for doping from qualifying for the national team for three years after the FINA ban is lifted. A Seoul court last Friday ruled that this regulation is groundless and thus Park is eligible to compete in Rio.

Following the ruling, Park’s fate is now dependent on the decision by CAS, which is expected soon. July 18 is the deadline for the national swimming team roster to be submitted.

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

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