By Park Sojung
INCHEON, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean star gymnast Yang Hak-seon has been on the top of the Asian Games podium before. This year, when the continental competition opens at home Friday, he wants to be there with his teammates.
As Yang, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the men's vault, prepares to take on his North Korean rival Ri Se-gwang, South Korea hopes to win at least two golds in artistic gymnastics -- one in Yang's event and another in the men's team competition -- at this year's Asiad. The latter would be the country's first in the discipline.
"If one of us slips up, that would put our entire team in jeopardy," Yang said Wednesday as he trained alongside his teammates at a gymnasium in Incheon, west of Seoul. "That's why we should never let our guards down at the event."
South Korean gymnast Yang Hak-seon (L) is set to duel with his North Korean rival Ri Se-gwang (R) at the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, west of Seoul. (Yonhap file photo)
South Korea has put greater emphasis on building a team rather than creating individual stars since doing well as a group goes hand in hand with individual excellence, said Joo Young-sam, head coach of the country's national gymnastics team.
"Our gymnasts have been helping one another and cheering on one another, which helps build team spirit," he said.
At Wednesday's practice, Yang was seen nursing a minor leg injury that prevented him from practicing the floor exercise, but coach Joo was not worried.
"It's true some of our gymnasts are not in their best form right now," Joo said. "But it's nothing to fret about."
Competition for artistic gymnastics at the upcoming Asiad will kick off on Sunday, with Yang expected to showcase his signature "Yang 2," an upgrade of his "Yang 1." Both of the techniques see him turn three and a half cycles midair. The second edition of the skill was unveiled in April and is worth 6.4 points in start value, denoting a high level of difficulty.
Yang's main rival on the take-off board will be Ri Se-gwang of North Korea, who won golds at the Asian Games in 2006 and the Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championship in 2008. The North Korean gymnast will present his own eponymous technique, "Ri," also worth 6.4 points, at the Incheon Asian Games.