Your guide to the 2018 Asian GamesThe 18th Asian Games officially kicks off in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang this weekend.
The Games, also known as the Asiad, is the second-largest multi-sport international event after the Olympics, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in terms of events.
Athletes from all 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia will compete in 462 events across 40 different sports at the Jakarta Palembang Games, considerably more than the 306 events across 28 sports at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A total of 779 Korean athletes will compete across all but one of the sports - Korea has not fielded a bridge team - at the Games, aiming to secure second place in the medal table for the twentieth year.
If Korea achieves its goal of coming in second, it will be the sixth consecutive time since the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. Team Korea hopes to finish ahead of Japan by winning at least 65 gold, 71 silver and 72 bronze medals. Korea is unlikely to topple China, which has comfortably won more than 100 gold medals in the past.
In 2014, when Korea hosted the games, it finished with 79 gold, 71 silver and 84 bronze medals. Though this year’s target is 14 gold medals lower, it’s by no means an easy target. Japan has been slowly improving in a number of sports that will be included in the Games.
The Asian Games may be considered less competitive than the Olympics, but this year’s Asiad will be a good primer for the 2022 Olympics - 33 of the sports will be contested in Tokyo.
Of the team sports, football has been receiving by far the most attention this year. Korea’s Son Heung-min is probably the most famous athlete competing in the entire contest, and a gold medal for him could literally be life-changing.
Son, who joined the U-23 Korean national team as a wild card, still hasn’t served his time in the military. As he wasn’t a part of the gold medal team at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, gold is a must this year for him to continue his career in the English Premier League as it will secure him a military exemption. The young squad got off to a strong start, winning its first group match 6-0 against Bahrain, without Son making a single appearance.
Korea’s handball and basketball teams also got off to a strong start en route to defending their titles by winning their first matches.
Aside from those competing to defend their title, some athletes are still chasing their first gold.
Legendary shooter and four-time Olympic gold medalist Jin Jong-oh is aiming for his first individual gold at the Asiad. Jin has only won gold in the team event. This time, rather than his main event, the 50-meter pistol, he is seeking gold in the 10-meter air pistol as the 50-meter event has been excluded from the Games this year.
Kim Ja-in, one of the best climbers in the world, will be making her Asian Games debut in the new sport climbing event, while fencer Nam Hyun-hee will be competing for the fourth time, hoping to win her 100th career medal.
BY KANG YOO-RIM, JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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