S. Korean athletes chasing Asiad medals determined to make country proud

Kim Woo-min isn't the most famous swimmer for South Korea at the moment, but he may just end up winning more gold medals than any of his teammates at the Hangzhou Asian Games starting next month.

Fellow freestyle swimmer Hwang Sun-woo has the cachet as the two-time world championship medalist, but he will have to contend with some continental rivals in his main events: the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle.

Kim, on the other hand, has virtually no peers on the continent in his races: 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle. Add the 4x200m freestyle relay, where Kim and Hwang will be leading one of the top medal contenders in Hangzhou, and Kim could bring home as many as four gold medals.

"I am working really hard to achieve the goal of winning four gold medals, but I am feeling absolutely no pressure," Kim said at a joint press conference with fellow Hangzhou-bound athletes Thursday at the Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, 85 kilometers southeast of Seoul. "I know my hard work will pay off eventually. As long as I keep putting in the work, I should be able to go into every race with confidence."

While Kim goes for four gold medals, fencer Gu Bon-gil will be chasing his fourth consecutive gold medal in the men's individual sabre event and also his sixth career gold medal. If Gu can add a seventh gold in the team event, he would become the most decorated South Korean athlete in Asian Games history.

"I feel a bit of pressure to be going for my fourth straight gold, but at the same time, I also feel a little sad because that means I've been around for so long, and I am getting old," the 34-year-old Gu said. "I know I can set a record for the most Asian Games gold medals, and I will be concentrating extra hard to make the most of this opportunity."

Another Asian Games veteran, archer Kim Woo-jin, will try to defend his men's individual title. He also won the individual gold in 2010.

"I've had my ups and downs at the Asian Games over my career, but the one constant has been my effort," Kim said. "I will try to do my best, the way I always have."

A couple of rising teenage stars will make their Asian Games debuts in Hangzhou, two years after getting their first taste of the Olympics in Tokyo.

In table tennis, Shin Yu-bin, 19, will ride a wave of good momentum into China, having thrived on the World Table Tennis Contender circuit lately.

Shin wouldn't have played at the Asian Games had the event not been postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic because she was dealing with a wrist injury last year.

"I feel fortunate that I will have a chance to compete after the postponement," Shin said. "I want to capitalize on this good opportunity and make sure I won't have any regrets at the end."

Sport climber Seo Chae-hyun, also 19, said she feels confident about her chances in Hangzhou, thanks to her recent run of international success.

"I will try to address whatever weaknesses I have and make my first Asian Games appearance count," Seo said.

Breaking, or break dancing, will make its Asian Games debut in Hangzhou. Kim Heon-woo, also known as his stage name Wing, has been training in Jincheon with athletes from other, more conventional sports and taking part in the mandatory early morning runs all the same.

It has been a shock to the system for Kim, who isn't accustomed to such a rigid training regimen, but the 35-year-old has been going with the flow the best he can.

"It's been a great experience. When you're here at the training center, you obviously have to follow the rules," Kim said. "Break dancers here are trying to keep things light every morning with our dance moves. We are all looking forward to our first Asian Games."

Source: Yonhap News Agency