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S. Korea eyes multiple gold medals in fencing at Paris Olympics

By Yonhap

Published : May 27, 2024 - 19:04

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

JINCHEON -- With the Paris Olympics two months away, the South Korean national fencing team said Monday its goal is to bring home multiple gold medals.

South Korea has won at least one fencing gold medal at every Olympics since 2012, with one gold, one silver and three bronze medals in Tokyo three years ago.

That lone gold came from the men's team sabre event, with Gu Bon-gil, Oh Sang-uk, Kim Jung-hwan and Kim Jun-ho coming through for South Korea's third straight Olympic gold in that discipline.

This time, Gu and Oh will have new teammates in Park Sang-won and Do Gyeong-dong. Kim Jung-hwan has not competed internationally this season, while Kim Jun-ho has retired from the national team.

The new-look sabre squad teamed up for silver at a World Cup event in Budapest in March, quelling concerns about their Olympic chances.

"Our goal is to win both the individual and the team gold medals," said Gu, the senior member of the team at age 35, during the national team media day at Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, about 85 kilometers south of Seoul.

Gu said he loves the youthful energy that Park, 23, and Do, 24, have brought to the team.

"Sang-won is powerful and agile. And you're not going to find a more fiery fencer in the world," Gu gushed. "Gyeong-dong is very physical and it really helps him on the attack.

These guys have proven themselves already. That's why they're going to the Olympics. I don't think they should put any pressure on themselves. They should just try to do what they're capable of doing."

Both Park and Do said they picked up fencing after watching Gu and their head coach, Won Woo-young, win the sabre team gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

"It's an honor to be going for the third straight Olympic gold medal with these teammates," Do said. "I am looking forward to reaching the top of the podium."

Park added: "I think my job is to fire up the team. I am a bit nervous about my first Olympics but I am ready to do my best."

Coach Won wasn't as brash in his prediction as Gu.

"The US team has been on the rise, and Hungary has had the same group for a long time. These two teams will be tough to beat," Won said. "We've been analyzing them closely. Winning three gold medals in a row would mean so much to us, and we'll try to write history."

No country has won three men's sabre team gold medals in a row since Hungary collected seven straight Olympic titles from 1928 to 1960.

Won said while some young Americans have a ton of talent, South Korea has experience on its side.

"Experience counts a lot at the Olympics," Won added. "I think that's where we will have an edge over the US Since we've been world No. 1 for a long time, a lot of teams have figured us out. But we've analyzed those other teams, too."

For the second straight Olympics, both team and individual events in all three weapons for both men and women will be contested, instead of a rotation system for team events that left out the men's team sabre and the women's team foil events in 2016.

South Korea will compete in eight events: the men's individual and team sabre, women's individual and team epee, women's individual and team sabre, men's individual foil, and men's individual epee.

In the women's epee, South Korea will bring back the same quartet that won silver in Tokyo: Song Se-ra, Choi In-jeong, Kang Young-mi and Lee Hye-in. Choi had retired last fall after winning the individual and team gold medals at the Hangzhou Asian Games last year, but she has returned to the piste at age 34 in pursuit of her first Olympic gold.

"Winning an Olympic gold would be a dream come true, and the thought of getting to the top is what keeps me going through some rigorous training," Choi said.

Choi said she enjoyed her time away from regimented training routines but a sense of responsibility for her teammates drew her back to Jincheon.

Her teammates welcomed her back with open arms.

"I tried to keep her around at first. And when she still left, I felt a little hurt," said Kang, the senior member of the team at 39. "Now that she's back with us, there are no hard feelings. I am happy to have her."

Song said the foursome still has great chemistry despite missing Choi for a few months.

"We've been pushing each other. And when I am struggling, my teammates always pick up the slack for me," Song said. "I have so much confidence in my teammates."

The women's sabre team will be led by Yoon Ji-su, the only remaining member of the bronze medal team from Tokyo. Now 31, Yoon will be competing alongside Choi Se-bin, Jeon Ha-young and Jeon Eun-hye -- all of them in their early to mid-20s.

"We've had a fairly smooth transition to a young generation," Yoon said. "They were good enough to make the Olympic team, and I hope we can all compete without any fear. We should be able to get to the semifinals, and once we're there, we can push for a medal."

In Paris, the fencing competition goes from July 27 to Aug. 4. (Yonhap)