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Korean athletes keep on playing and winning at Asiad despite tension back home

By Yoo Jee-ho and Kim Boram

GUANGZHOU, China, Nov. 24 (PNA/Yonhap) – On a day when at least two South Korean marines were killed and other soldiers and civilians were injured on a South Korean western border island following North Korean artillery attacks, South Korean athletes continued to do what they do best: playing sports and winning medals.

Despite the news of the tense exchange back home, South Korean athletes picked up three gold medals to reach 64 golds, one shy of the country’s pre-Asian Games goal. Male handballers made the final but the men’s football team wasn’t as successful.

Two days after helping the women’s team win archery team gold, Yun Ok-hee claimed the individual gold medal Tuesday. She defeated Cheng Ming of China 6-0.

Individual archery events are played in sets. In each set, archers take three shots apiece. The winner of the set is awarded two points and a draw results in one point for each archer. Yun outscored Cheng 27-25, 28-27 and 28-27 over three sets.

Yun met some unexpected challenges en route to the gold medal match. She needed five full sets to edge past Farida Tukebayeva of Kazakhstan 7-3 in the semifinal, and also went the distance before beating Deepika Kumari of India.

The South Korean admitted the final was the easiest match of the day for her.

“If I was facing a more famous archer in the quarters, I would have been more on guard, but I had never met (Tukebayeva) before until today,” Yun said. “She didn’t make any mistakes and she didn’t look nervous at all. And with my teammate Ki Bo-bae eliminated from the quarters, I felt more pressure to win.”

Cheng beat Ki on her way to the final. Yun said she wanted to let China know South Korea is still the top contender in archery.

“I didn’t want to see another Zhang Juanjuan,” Yun said of the Chinese archer who defeated South Korean Park Sung-hyun for gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That ended South Korea’s string of six straight gold in the women’s individual archery. “I felt that if I lost, then China would grow more confident against us.”

The archery event took place as the Koreas exchanged fire near the Yeonpyeong Island on the Yellow Sea, located just south of the de facto maritime border, also known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Yun said she was aware of the development but wasn’t affected by the news.

Kwon Un-sil of North Korea was the bronze medal winner of the event. After the match, Kwon claimed to know nothing about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and said she wanted to stay focused on her athletic pursuit. It was North Korea’s first archery medal at an Asian Games in 20 years.

An Yi-seul won South Korea’s first gold in roller sports on the first day of the event Tuesday, taking the women’s 300-meter time trial crown. She will go down as the first Asian Games gold medalist of roller sports, which made its Asiad debut here.
But she could also end up being one of the last.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) will cut the number of sports from 42 here to 35 at the next Asian Games in Incheon, west of Seoul. Seven non-Olympic sports will be chosen from a list of 10 drawn up by the OCA. Roller sports aren’t part of the Olympic program.
When asked about her goals in the future, An said she wants to skate in the Asian Games again.

“I just hope the roller sports stay in the Asian Games next time so I can compete,” she said.
South Korea doesn’t often win gold medals in track and field – just one gold at the last Asiad from the men’s javelin throw – and Jung Soon-ok helped the country match that total Tuesday by winning gold in the women’s long jump.

The men’s handball team crushed Saudi Arabia 41-19 to set up a final showdown against Iran on Friday. It will be South Korea’s chance to avenge a 31-27 loss to Iran in the bronze medal match of the previous Asian Games.

South Korea beat Iran 31-29 in the preliminary game earlier in these Asian Games, almost blowing an eight-goal first-half lead.

“At the time, we were probably a little lax having built such a big lead,” said Yoon Kyung-shin, playing in his sixth Asian Games. “But this will be the final match. We will play the entire 60 minutes.”

In the men’s football semifinal, South Korea played 119 minutes of scoreless football against the United Arab Emirates and then gave up a winner to Ahmed Ali Al Abry in the final minute of the second extra period, once again missing a chance to win the elusive gold medal.

South Korea last won a football gold at the Asian Games in 1986 in Seoul.

Forward Park Chu-young of AS Monaco, a hired gun for the South Korean offense, led the frenetic attack that ultimately resulted in failed attempts to score against the UAE.

South Korean fencers ended their Guangzhou campaign on a down note, taking bronze medals in the men’s foil and women’s epee team events on the final day of the fencing portion here on Tuesday. But over the six days of fencing, South Korea claimed seven gold medals, its all-time high at an Asiad.

The South Korean men’s hockey team won’t get a chance to win its third straight Asian Games gold after falling 4-3 to Pakistan in a penalty stroke in Tuesday’s semifinal.
The teams ended regulation tied at 1-1, and the 15-minute extra time couldn’t solve the deadlock.

Muhammad Waqas opened the scoring for Pakistan in the 22nd minute but Kang Moon-kyu got one back 17 minutes later. In the penalties, Yeo Woon-kon missed his shot as Pakistan booked a ticket to the final against Malaysia.

South Korea will face India in the bronze medal game on Thursday. (PNA/Yonhap)

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