(Universiade) Smooth transition on horizon for S. Korea
By Park Sojung
GWANGJU, July 12 (Yonhap) -- Great athletes come and go, stars rise and fall, but two South Korean superstars at this Universiade may be here to stay. The Summer Universiade in Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, also produced new faces who will continue South Korea's strong traditions in archery and judo.
South Korean sweetheart Son Yeon-jae reigned supreme at the all-around final in rhythmic gymnastics, capturing South Korea's first title in the sport at the competition.
In the final of each apparatus, she added two more titles in hoop and ball to become a triple gold medalist. Son was largely out of her rivals' league, demonstrating difficult routines in the two apparatuses with stellar accuracy. The 21-year-old, however, faltered in the remaining two programs, relinquishing the gold medals in clubs and ribbon to her European peers.
"I'm happy to have won three gold medals but at the same time, sorry for letting people down," Son said afterwards at the press conference. "But I'm sure that means a lot of people are looking out for me, so I'm going to try my best to do better next time."
South Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae stages her ribbon routine at the Universiade's all-around final in Gwangju on July 12, 2015. (Yonhap)
In archery, reigning Olympic champion Ki Bo-bae returned with a vengeance after failing to make the South Korean national team at the 2014 Asian Games.
Ki swept the titles in mixed team and women's individual recurve archery at the Gwangju International Archery Center. At the women's team final, Ki tried to keep Chinese Taipei at bay with her four 10s, but the devastating 7 and 8 by her teammate Choi Mi-sun disrupted her effort for a third gold.
With archery being a test of resilience more than anything, Ki successfully maintained a picture of cool confidence amidst her excess of peripheral duties. She is an honorary ambassador of the Universiade and an employee of the city of Gwangju and served as one of the torchbearers during the torch relay. But Ki succeeded at focusing on what matters most.
"I just wanted to do my best, which I believe is any athlete's duty," she said. "I think I got good results because I wasn't being greedy."
This Universiade was also an opportunity for rising stars to shine.
The 20-year-old Lee Seung-yun shot 10s in the finals with a success rate of 75 percent and took the men's and mixed recurve archery by storm.
South Korean archers Ki Bo-bae (L) and Lee Seung-yun wave to the crowd after winning the gold medal in mixed team recurve archery at Gwangju International Archery Center on July 8, 2015. (Yonhap)
At the post-competition interview, Lee suggested that he is, in fact, a man made of steel. Many South Korean stars have surrendered to the pressure of competing at home, but Lee showed he knew how to see the good in everything.
"Competing at home actually helps because there's no jet lag to deal with here," he said. "I had a lot of friends in the stands, and I tried to do well for them."
In judo, An Chang-rim, a Japan-born South Korean, powered through the men's under-73-kilogram category with five consecutive ippon victories to clinch the gold medal.
With the title, An consolidated his supremacy in the most elite division in South Korean judo that has produced several stars, including defending Olympic champion Kim Jae-beom and the 2008 Olympic silver medalist Wang Ki-chun.
With Wang now in a heavier divison, the 21-year-old is essentially the best judoka South Korea has in the weight class.
An has also won many hearts for choosing the South Korean national team over Japan's. An turned down an offer from the Japanese team and transferred to a South Korean college in his sophomore year.
An said his Universiade victory was simply a rehearsal to the Olympics coming up next year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"I considered this competition practice for the Olympics," he said. "I wanted to fight the way I normally do, and that's why I think I won.
South Korean judoka An Chang-rim celebrates his Universiade gold medal in the men's under-78-kilogram final in Gwangju on July 6, 2015. (Yonhap)