Head coach Moon Bong-gi says squad a mix of young talent, veteran leadership
Sprint hurdler Park Tae-kyung, triple jumper Kim Deok-hyun and women’s pole vault Choi Yun-hee will lead the Korean athletics team for the Daegu World Championships.
Korea Association of Athletics Federations named Wednesday a 60-strong team for the world athletics championships, which kicks off on Aug. 27 in Daegu, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul.
The national athletics team poses during a ceremony for the Daegu World Championships at Taenung training center in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
Asian Games medalist Park Tae-kyung, who holds the country’s best record of 13.48 seconds in the men’s 110m hurdles, will cap the national team, and will strive to make an impact at the home event.
Park will run against several top world class sprinters, such as world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba, American Champion David Oliver and Chinese star Liu Xiang.
The 26-year-old triple jumper Kim has returned to the national team after a two-month layoff due to a calf injury. He jumped 8.11 meters to win the gold at the 2010 Asian Games and also snatched a surprising gold medal at the Daegu Pre-championships in May. National pole vault champion Choi, who set a new Korean record of 4.40 meters two months ago, also hopes to make it into top 10 at the Worlds.
Also joining the squad are sprinter Kim Gook-young, 19, who broke Korea’s 31-year-old 100 meter record last year by clocking in at 10.23 seconds, women’s long jump champion Jung Soon-ok and women’s 100 meter hurdles champion Chung Hae-rim.
“The squad is well mixed with young potential talent and well-experienced veteran athletes,” said Moon Bong-gi, head coach of the Korean athletics team.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony held at the national training center in Taeneung, northern Seoul, Moon noted that his team will make the most of the country’s first ever world athletics championships.
“I’ve told my players that it is okay if you do your best, and you lose. But I won’t forgive athletes who give up hope before even trying,” he added.
“I felt a lot of pressure until recently but my record is getting better and I’m becoming more confident,” hurdler Park said.
“I’m looking forward to competing in Daegu,” Park added, noting that he is heading to Daegu next week for his final training.
There are two qualifying criteria ― A and B standards ― for the 13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Each member country can send a maximum of three athletes who have reached the higher A-standard, or only one athlete who meets the B-standard record. However, Korea, as the host country, is allowed to send one athlete into each event regardless of the entry standard.
Winning a medal at such a prestigious competition is any athlete’s dream. For Korean athletes, however, to even qualify for the finals will be a huge achievement given the country’s current level of competitiveness.
Korean national team had a disappointing campaign at the previous championships in Berlin two years as all 19 athletes were knocked out in the preliminary rounds.
Hoping to make the most of home advantage, Korean has set a goal of finishing in the top 10 in 10 events in Daegu, sending the largest number of athletes in its history for the upcoming Worlds.
“Two years ago in Berlin, I was utterly disappointed not because of our poor result but the lack of enthusiasm of our athletes,” said Oh Dong-jin, president of Korea Association of Athletics Federation. But Oh said that he believes this year will be different.
“Korean athletics are in transition, and all our athletes understand that this year’s Worlds in Daegu is a great opportunity to leap onto the world stage,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com)