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(LEAD) (News Focus) Partial Rio Olympics ban on Russia to have little impact on S. Korea

2016/07/25 13:57

(ATTN: UPDATES with taekwondo's decision in paras 15-17)

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- A recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to issue a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games will likely have little impact on South Korea's medal race.

The IOC on Sunday defied growing calls from the anti-doping community to exclude the whole Russian delegation from Rio amid allegations of state-sponsored doping, and instead passed the ball to individual sports federations. Thomas Bach, the IOC president, said those international governing bodies will have the authority to exclude Russian athletes as they see fit.

The track and field team has already been banned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for rampant doping, while the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) imposed a one-year suspension on Russia in June.

South Korea, though, isn't expected to contend for medals in those events, and it will only compete with Russia for medals in sports that likely won't be banned, thus limiting the impact of the IOC's decision.

A complete ban would have affected rhythmic gymnastics a great deal, where South Korea's Son Yeon-jae will go up against a pair of Russians, world No. 1 Yana Kudryavtseva and No. 2 Margarita Mamun.

South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae performs her ribbon program at the national team trials held at the National Training Center in Seoul on April 9, 2016. (Yonhap) South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae performs her ribbon program at the national team trials held at the National Training Center in Seoul on April 9, 2016. (Yonhap)

The third-ranked gymnast, Alexandra Soldatova, is also from Russia, but countries are only allowed to send two athletes each to the Olympics.

The absence of Kudryavtseva and Mamun would have made Son the second-highest ranked gymnast in the field at No. 5, after the fourth-ranked Ganna Rizatdinova of Ukraine and cleared the path for the South Korean to grab the country's first Olympic medal in her sport.

However, doping is a rare occurrence in rhythmic gymnastics, and Kudryavtseva, a three-time world all-around champion, should get a chance to win her first Olympic gold medal.

In Greco-Roman wrestling, South Korean Kim Hyeon-woo, the 2012 gold medalist in 66kg, has moved up to 75kg in Rio. He will likely have to get past the defending champion in his new category, Roman Vlasov of Russia.

They've split their two career meetings so far.

According to a recent report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), wrestling accounted for 28 of the 312 positive tests that were covered up by Russia between 2011 and 2015. Yet, the United World Wrestling (UWW), the sport's international federation, said it hasn't received anything specific from WADA.

In men's taekwondo, South Korean star Lee Dae-hoon and Alexey Denisenko of Russia are on the opposite ends of the bracket in the 68kg class, meaning they could meet in the final.

Both competed in the 58kg division in London, where Lee defeated Denisenko in the semifinals en route to winning silver.

At a World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) World Grand Prix event last September, Denisenko edged Lee in the semifinals and went on to win the title.

Without naming names, Choue said he has been informed by the WADA that six Russian taekwondo fighters have violated its anti-doping policy, but none made the Russian team for Rio.

In addition to Denisenko, Russia will be represented in the men's 80kg and the women's 67kg events.

South Korea is in the same group with Russia in women's volleyball and women's handball, the two sports not yet implicated in the doping scandal.

South Korean wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo lifts kettlebells during a national team open practice session at the National Training Center in Seoul on July 18, 2016. (Yonhap) South Korean wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo lifts kettlebells during a national team open practice session at the National Training Center in Seoul on July 18, 2016. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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