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Hopes high for Daegu World Championships

DAEGU -- Asian Games medalist Park Tae-kyong believes Korean athletes have enough “potential” to make an impact at the upcoming athletics world championships.

Daegu, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, is preparing for the 13th IAAF World Championships slated for Aug. 27-Sept. 4. The biennial event is one of the world’s top three sporting events, along with the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Becoming champions in such a prestigious competition is a sprinter’s dream. But for Korean athletes to even qualify for the competition will be a huge achievement given the country’s current level of competitiveness.

Park, who holds Korea’s best record of 13.48 in 110m hurdles, however, claimed that Korean athletes have the potential and the ability to take up the challenge for the title.

“My aim is not just to qualify for the event, but to break into the finals,” Park said during a news conference in Daegu on Wednesday.

Lee Yeon-kyung, who won the gold in the 100m hurdles in Guangzhou Asian Games, admitted Korean athletes still lag far behind the international level, but noted that this year will be a turning point.

“Tomorrow, we’ll be competing against the world‘s top athletes. I believe this will give us big-game experiences and help us do well in this summer’s competition,” said Lee.

Some of the biggest names in athletics, including reigning women’s 100 meter champion Carmelita Jeter and three-time 200 meter champion Allyson Felix, are now in the city for the Pre-Championships on Thursday.

This year, the annual event, which started in 2005 as a preparation for the World Championships, will act as a final trial run for this summer’s competition.

More than 220 athletes from across the world are competing in 16 events on Thursday at the newly renovated Daegu Stadium, according to the organizer.

The highlight is expected to be the women’s sprints where reigning champion Jeter will compete against record holder Ruddy Zang Milama. The men’s 100m also features a fine line-up with Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix competing against U.S. Indoor Champion Mike Rodgers and Jamaica’s Mario Forsythe. In the men’s 110 meter hurdles, David Oliver of the United States will challenge his own record of 13.11 from last year.

With the pre-championships, much preparation is underway for the country’s biggest athletics event in August. More than 3,500 athletes and officials, including thee-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and Women’s pole vault record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva, will be competing at Korea’s first ever World Championships. The organizer claimed that Daegu will leave a legacy in the World Championships history.

“For the first time in World Championships history, the athletes and media village will be provided,” said Stefan Thies, media supervisor of the Daegu Organizing Committee.

The athlete’s village has been built within 10 minutes from the stadium to provide best competition environment for the athletes. Also, free public transportation will be provided for the public during the competition, the official said.

“In August Daegu will become the world capital of athletics,” he added.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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