Covid-hit wrestling squad earns just two Olympic berths
Korea will only send two wrestlers to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the team's attempt to win more berths fell apart with 18 members of the national wrestling team testing positive for Covid-19 on the sidelines of the 2021 World Wrestling Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bulgaria last week.
The Bulgaria tournament followed the Asian Wrestling Olympic qualifiers in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from April 9 to 11.
After the competition finished, the 50-person Korean team split into two groups, with 27 people returning to Korea and 23 flying to Sofia, Bulgaria for the Olympic World Qualification Tournament that took place from May 6 to 9.
A total of 37 members of the team — 19 in Korea and 18 in Bulgaria — were reported to have tested positive with Covid-19. The first case was on April 22, when eight national team members tested positive.
The 2021 World Wrestling Olympic Qualification Tournament in Bulgaria was the last chance for Korean wrestlers to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Of the fourteen wrestlers that were initially scheduled to compete at the qualifications, only nine, six men and three women, were fit to fight. The other five were unable to attend the event and were scored as walkovers.
Among the five that were unable to compete was London 2012 gold medalist Kim Hyeon-woo, who tested positive with Covid-19 a day before the qualifications and had to withdraw.
Chung Han-jae was the only Korean to win a medal at the qualifications. Chung won bronze for the men’s Greco-Roman 60-kilogram, but failed to earn an Olympic berth as only the top two in each weight class gets a ticket to the Games.
This is the smallest Korean national wrestling squad since the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics, as Team Korea goes to Tokyo with only two Olympic berths — in the men's Greco-Roman 67-kilogram and 130-kilogram weight classes.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]