Asian Games will be ‘new beginning’ for biggest-ever South Korea team

FILE – The Unified Korea delegation parades during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games at the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium in Jakarta on August 18, 2018. (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP)

The Asian Games will be a “new beginning” for South Korean sport, a top official said, with badminton world number one An Se-young spearheading the country’s largest-ever team at the competition.

The Games start in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on September 23 and South Korea will take 867 athletes to the Olympic-sized event.

South Korea has consistently finished second in the medals table behind China at the Games, but slipped to third in 2018, with China and Japan ahead of them.

“This year’s Asian Games will mark the new beginning for South Korean sports,” Yonhap news agency quoted Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korean Sport And Olympic Committee, as saying on Tuesday in Seoul.

“We have been making progress in many different sports and have seen the emergence of young athletes.

“I can’t wait to see our athletes tackle challenges at this year’s Asian Games.”

Chief among South Korea’s hopes for gold is the 21-year-old An, who has enjoyed a breakout year, rising to number one in women’s badminton and winning the world title.

The Games were postponed by a year because of Covid and An believes those extra 12 months have been to her benefit.

“I think this past year has given me an opportunity to grow,” Yonhap quoted her as saying.

An, who was dumped out early at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, added: “I was one of the youngest athletes and I mostly stayed in the shadows.

“This time I am going in with a pretty strong track record of success.

“That’s the big difference.”

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