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Injured gymnast Yang Hak-seon gets second chance for Rio

Reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Yang Hak-seon, who has been battling a foot injury since March, has been given a second chance to prove himself worthy of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, the South Korean gymnastics association said Sunday.

Yang participated but withdrew from the national team trials that lasted two days from Saturday, ending up with a score of 0 and finishing last among 15 candidates.

Yang Hak-seon (Yonhap)
Yang Hak-seon (Yonhap)

The Korea Gymnastic Association (KGA), however, said it is giving him another chance by allowing him to participate in the final Olympic trials that would determine which five of the gymnasts would represent South Korea in August.

"This was only possible because he is Yang Hak-seon," said KGA Secretary-General So Jung-ho. "Our association must prioritize medals. Yang is an excellent gymnast, and because of his passion, we decided to give him this chance."

The 2012 Olympic champion in the men's vault is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right foot, sustained during practice on March 23.

Yang had initially planned on skipping the national team trials altogether, but decided to submit his entry and withdraw later because of the KGA's request to "examine his fitness."

"There have been some resistance to our decision," So said.

"But Yang's doctor says his rehab should be over by June 4 at which point he should be able to train better. Getting him to compete in all six apparatus might be impossible, but he may be able to pull off two of them."

To secure his Rio spot, Yang must demonstrate his competence in the final two to three rounds of trials that will wrap up on July 18.

The best five from the national team trials will also advance to the final rounds. They are Lee Sang-wook, Park Min-soo, Yoo Won-chul, Shin Dong-hyun and Kim Han-sol in the order of the highest score to the lowest.