Korean athletes far from sweeping all the golds in the Asian Games

South Korean taekwondo athletes have failed to deliver at international events, including those on their home soil, despite expectations to the contrary because the sport originated in their country.

asian games
Yoon Jeong-yeon of South Korea, left, the runner-up in the women’s under-49 kg Asiad taekwondo, standing next to Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yun Wen, who became champion. Korea Times photo


This also seems to apply at the Incheon Asian Games, as Korean athletes failed to bag a single gold on the first day of the taekwondo competition.

Although South Koreans belatedly bagged three golds on the following day, many Koreans still think this is not good enough, as they expect their athletes to sweep almost all golds available.

But others also believe Korean taekwondo athletes’ dismal performance at international competition is an encouraging sign showing that the martial art is being practiced by people all over the world, many of whom have also reached the sport’s highest levels.

On Tuesday, four Koreans competed in different categories of the taekwondo event, and grabbed one silver and two bronze medals.

That made headlines in most local news media, which expressed their disappointment at the absence of golds.

But Korea’s taekwondo athletes have had poor showings in a number of recent major competitions.

At the 2010 Asian Games, Koreans only collected four out of 16 golds available in the sport, and at the Olympics in London two years later, the country had to settle for a single gold in the women’s 57-67kg category, out of eight.

Obviously, this contrasts with earlier results.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Koreans snagged four of the eight golds, and two years earlier at the Guangzhou Asiad they won nine of the 16 golds available.

Regarding Korean athletes’ disappointing performances, many experts argue that they have failed to adapt to new rules and scoring systems that were introduced to make the sport more dynamic and entertaining as a global attraction.

One of them was the introduction of an electronic scoring system, in which scores are tallied through electronic devices in the competitors’ body protectors.

After the World Taekwondo Federation first used the system in the 2009 World Taekwondo Championships, the Guangzhou Games and the London Olympics also adopted it. This year’s Asian Games also uses the system.

“With the introduction of the electronic scoring system, there have been many changes in patterns of technique,” said Professor Yang Jin-bang of Yong In University’s Department of Taekwondo.

“The changes brought more speed to attacking techniques, while Korean athletes were sticking to their old-fashioned slow-but-powerful attacks,” he said.

As he mentioned, the recent strategy in the sport is focused on getting more points with light but fast attacks. This has required athletes to be equipped with different strategies and tactics from the past, such as the Athens Olympics in 2004 when Korea’s Moon Dae-sung clinched the gold by knockout with his stunning round kick.

“Also, as the sport became an official event of the Olympics from the Sydney Games in 2000, many countries started to develop the sport, which raised the global level of taekwondo for some nine to 10 years, when the scoring system was introduced,” Yang said.

He added that Korean taekwondo needs to change itself from old-fashioned style and develop itself to adjust in the rapidly changing taekwondo world.

But many people also say the host country’s struggles on the international stages is one of the reasons that the sport has remained a part of the Olympics, citing baseball’s elimination from the Games.

In July 2005, the International Olympic Committee’s Governing Board dropped baseball from the 2012 Olympics program, citing American dominance as one of the reasons. At that point, taekwondo survived, but concerns have lingered for a while that it could face the same fate as baseball if Koreans continued to dominate.

At the 2012 Olympics, however, eight countries bagged taekwondo medals, and in 2013 it became one of 25 core sports of the Olympics.

“The medal spread shows that taekwondo is an internationally enjoyed sport and the players’ level is rising internationally,” said an official from the taekwondo federation.

“The widened medal spread means more countries are participating in the sport, and the sport’s infrastructure is becoming more solid,” he said.


Source:  The Korea Times


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