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Asiad-bound taekwondo practitioners fueled by failures

Aug. 25, 2023 - 09:24 By Yonhap
South Korean taekwondo practitioner Jang Jun (left) trains for the Hangzhou Asian Games at the National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, on Aug. 24. (Yonhap)

Jang Jun and Lee Da-bin, two South Korean taekwondo medal hopefuls at the upcoming Asian Games in China, both want to use their recent slip-ups as fuel.

Lee, 26, will be going for her third consecutive Asian Games gold medal in Hangzhou next month. Her first gold came in the lightweight (62 kilograms) event in 2014, but she moved up to heavyweight (+67kg) under the revised weight divisions in 2018 and won gold there too. She will be the defending champion in the heavyweight class in September.

"For the national team and for me personally, it will be a significant accomplishment to win my third straight gold medal," Lee said Thursday at the National Training Center in the central county of Jincheon. The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee organized a media day Thursday to mark the 30-day countdown to the Hangzhou Asiad, featuring a joint press conference for athletes and officials, and open training sessions for several sports.

"I will try to focus even harder than any other competition in the past," the 26-year-old added.

Lee's preparation for the Asiad hit a snag in May, when she was upset in the round of 16 of the world championships in the middleweight (73kg) division. The 5-0, 5-4 loss to Maristella Smiraglia of Italy left Lee in tears long after the match had ended.

"Even today, thinking about that loss and about how poorly I performed brings tears to my eyes," said Lee, who won the gold medal in the same weight class at the 2019 worlds. "I am trying to shake it all off. But it's not like I hadn't worked hard before the world championships. I always try to look for areas where I can improve and to keep positive thoughts in my head."

At least Lee competed at the worlds. Jang didn't even qualify for the competition, after losing out to his rival Bae Jun-seo in the national team trials in February.

Jang, 23, had been South Korea's best in the men's flyweight (58kg) class for several years, with the world title in 2019, Olympic bronze in 2021 and world silver in 2022 on his resume. This spring, though, Jang was forced to watch Bae soar to his first world title in the flyweight division, after winning the 2019 gold medal in the finweight (54kg) class.

"While I was watching those matches, I felt I could have done better than some of the guys there," Jang said. "At the Asian Games, I am going to show what I am capable of." (Yonhap)