South Korea boasts a proud tradition in handball at the Asian Games, having won 11 of 14 gold medals handed out so far in the men’s and the women’s competitions.
With this year’s Asiad, to be held in the South Korean city of Incheon, members of the handball squads on Thursday vowed to keep that tradition alive.
The South Korean men have won six of the eight handball gold medals at the Asian Games so far and they’re the reigning champs.
Head coach Kim Tae-hoon said winning before the home crowds will carry extra significance.
|Korea’s national handball teams pose for photos during a media day event on Thursday. (Yonhap)|
“We will enter the Asian Games like warriors going into battle,” Kim told reporters at the pre-Asiad media day event at the National Training Center in Seoul. “We will put everything on the line in Incheon and will try to make everyone happy.”
Park Jung-geu, captain of the men’s team, said all members of the squad have built strong chemistry on and off the court, and they should be able to use that to their advantage at the Asian Games.
Park said he is wary of opponents from the Middle East, saying their imposing physiques could give South Koreans trouble. At this year’s Asian championships, South Korea missed the semifinals, coming in behind the likes of Bahrain and Iran.
“We’ve been trying to improve our speed and also work on our defense,” the captain said. “We want to make sure we always go the extra mile on defense.”
On the women’s side, South Korea won the most recent Asian championship in 2012. At the previous Asiad in Guangzhou, though, South Korea fell to Japan in the semis and settled for the bronze medal, as its streak of winning five consecutive Asian Games golds came to an abrupt halt.
Woo Sun-hee, the women’s captain who competed on that 2010 Asiad squad, said she doesn’t want to go through the same, painful experience again.
“Personally, the 2010 Asiad remains the biggest disappointment,” the 36-year-old said. “The players that had come before us had all won gold medals, and I hated that the streak ended then. This could be the last international event of my career and I’d like to end it with a gold medal.”
Lim Young-chul, head coach of the women’s team, said he has put his squad through hard training over the past four months, and his players are using the hiccup from Guangzhou as their fuel.
“This will be my first Asian Games as a coach, and I am feeling a bit nervous,” said Lim, who competed in the 1982 Asiad on South Korea’s bronze medal-winning team. “At the same time, I am also confident that these players will come through.”
The men’s team is in Group D with Japan, India and Taiwan.
The first match will be against Japan on Sept. 20, one day after the Asiad’s opening ceremony. The women’s team has drawn China, Thailand and India in Group A. The opening match will be against India, also on Sept. 20.
There are 14 men’s teams, divided into two groups of three and two groups of four. The top two seeds will reach the knockout round. In the women’s competition, there are nine countries ― four in Group A and five in Group B. The top two countries from each will make up the semifinals. (Yonhap)