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(Asiad) S. Korea finishes with no golds in athletics, aquatics at Incheon

2014/10/05 08:00

By Kim Han-joo

INCHEON, Oct. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, despite accomplishing its initial goal of clinching second place in the medal standings at the Incheon Asian Games, wrapped up aquatics and athletics events on home soil without any gold.

With a total of 100 gold medals up for grabs in swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, and track and field events, the host country's biggest-ever delegation of 831 athletes failed to grab any Asiad gold, marking its first such drought since the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games.

No South Korean athlete topped the podium at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium in this western port city, the main venue for track and field events.

The country -- which had initially set a goal of snatching three gold, five silver and 10 bronze from 47 events -- picked up only four silver and six bronze, again falling short of its expectations.

The track and field events in Incheon were dominated by African-born athletes running for wealthy Gulf states, mainly Bahrain and Qatar.

Femi Ogunode, who was born a Nigerian but became a naturalized Qatari, grabbed the gold in the 100m sprint after setting a new continental record of 9.93 seconds, while Bahrain's African imports secured a hat trick of long distance golds.

China, traditionally considered the powerhouse, barely saved face after picking up a total of 15 golds, with the men's 4x100m relay team breaking the Asian record. The four Chinese sprinters crossed the line in 37.99 seconds, becoming the first Asians to go below 38 seconds. It was also the third best time in the world this year.

However, there were some memorable moments for South Korea, traditionally considered the underdog in the events.

In a surprise, South Korean men's 4x400m relay team picked up the silver medal after setting a new national record of 3:04.03. Yeo Ho-sua anchored the team that also included Park Bong-go, Seong Hyeok-je and Park Se-jung.

Lim Eun-ji, often compared by local fans to world record-holder Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, picked up the bronze in the women's pole vault, bagging the fist Asiad medal for South Korea in the event. Lim vaulted 4.15 meters.

South Korea also took bronze in both the men's and women's 20㎞ race walk, as well as the silver in the men's 50㎞.

Yeo became the biggest star sprinter for South Korea after grabbing the bronze in the 200m hurdles, ending the country's 28-year-old medal drought in sprints.

South Korea's national anthem was also not played in medal ceremonies at Munhak Park Tae-hwan Aquatics Center, an arena named after the country's superstar Park Tae-hwan and the venue for most aquatic events.

The country picked up a total of two silvers and six bronzes. Of the eight, Park got one silver and five bronze.

Park, a 25-year-old local icon who carried the expectations of a nation on his shoulders, battled nerves throughout six days of competition.

In earlier races, Park came in having won the past two Asian Games gold medals in both the 200m and the 400m freestyle but failed to make it three in a row in either of them, settling for bronze in both races.

Park tried to end his Asian Games, which could possibly be his last Asiad, with more satisfactory results, but finished fourth in the 1,500m freestyle, well behind the champion and his classic rival, Sun Yang of China.

Park, dubbed "Marine Boy," still managed to make history in the arena. With the bronze in his final race, the 4x100m medley relay, Park became the most decorated South Korean athlete in Asian Games history with 20 medals.

China bagged the greatest number of gold medals with 22 in swimming competitions. However, Japan managed to snatch more "meaningful" golds with world-class results.

Japanese sensation Kosuke Hagino, who has cemented his status as the continent's best all-round swimmer, finished with seven medals, including four golds.

Hagino grabbed gold medals in the men's 200m individual medley, 200m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle relay and 400m individual medley. He also bagged one silver and two more bronzes after breaking two Asian records.

The 20-year-old Japanese star has already been tipped as a strong contender to win medley gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.