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(Universiade) Behind home cooking, partisan crowds, S. Korea wins medal race for first time

2015/07/14 11:00

By Yoo Jee-ho

GWANGJU, July 14 (Yonhap) -- Buoyed by home cooking and partisan crowds, host South Korea enjoyed its best-ever Summer Universiade in Gwangju.

The metropolitan city lying 330 kilometers south of Seoul, and its satellite towns, opened the multisport competition for student-athletes on July 3. It will come to a close Tuesday, with only the men's water polo gold medal left to be determined in the afternoon.

Though South Korea won't add to its tally in water polo, it still led all countries in gold medals with 47, its all-time high at a Summer Universiade.

Before missing out on water polo, South Korea won at least one gold medal in each of the first 10 days of the competition.

The host had set out to win at least 25 gold medals for a top-three finish but surpassed that mark last Wednesday, the fifth day of the competition after the opening ceremony. South Korea never relinquished its lead the rest of the way.

Early on, bonanzas in judo and archery propelled South Korea. The host swept up eight gold medals each from those two sports to lead all countries.

South Korean medalists in compound and recurve archery events pose with their prizes at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea, on July 8, 2015. South Korea won eight gold, four silver and two silver medals in archery. (Yonhap) South Korean medalists in compound and recurve archery events pose with their prizes at the Summer Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea, on July 8, 2015. South Korea won eight gold, four silver and two silver medals in archery. (Yonhap)

In the latter stages, rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae emerged as the brightest star, claiming three gold medals to keep South Korea at the top of the medal table. Son has been making a career out of accomplishing firsts in South Korean rhythmic gymnastics, and her individual all-around gold last Sunday was the country's first Universiade gold in her sport.

Archery produced two triple gold medalists: Kim Jong-ho in the men's compound and Lee Seung-yun in the men's recurve events.

South Korea exceeded expectations in shooting with six gold medals, two more than its target. Park Dae-hun won three gold medals in pistol.

Two other triple gold medalists came from badminton, where South Korea won all six gold medals at stake -- one in the mixed team and five in the men's and women's singles and doubles and the mixed doubles. Kim Gi-jung and Shin Seung-chan picked up three titles.

In taekwondo, South Korea won all five gold medals in poomsae, the demonstrative form of the traditional martial art, and added three gold medals in sparring rounds.

South Korea failed to win a gold medal in ball sports.

The men's football team lost to Italy 3-0 in the final, failing to end a 24-year Universiade drought. The women's handball team fell to Russia 38-36 in the gold medal match, unable to close the gap despite a ferocious second-half rally.

Teams in other major sports didn't come as close to the gold.

Neither the men's nor the women's team in volleyball made it to the medal rounds. It was the same story in basketball. In contrast to the men's success in football, the women's team was knocked out of the quarterfinals.

Held back by putrid offense, South Korea settled for bronze in baseball. In its two losses to Japan and Chinese Taipei, South Korea was blanked 10-0 while managing nine hits and striking out 15 times.

Overall, those down moments were few and far between for South Korea, which, as the host, also weathered the storm off the field -- both literally and figuratively.

South Korea swept up all six gold medals in badminton, along with one silver and two bronze medals at the Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea. At top, the members of the gold medal-winning mixed team pose on the podium on July 8, 2015. At bottom, from left, are the mixed doubles champs Kim Gi-jung and Shin Seung-chan, the women's singles champ Sung Ji-hyun, the men's singles champ Jeon Hyeok-jin, the women's doubles winners Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan, and the men's doubles gold medalists Kim Sa-rang and Kim Gi-jung, all competing on July 12, 2015. (Yonhap)  South Korea swept up all six gold medals in badminton, along with one silver and two bronze medals at the Universiade in Gwangju, South Korea. At top, the members of the gold medal-winning mixed team pose on the podium on July 8, 2015. At bottom, from left, are the mixed doubles champs Kim Gi-jung and Shin Seung-chan, the women's singles champ Sung Ji-hyun, the men's singles champ Jeon Hyeok-jin, the women's doubles winners Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan, and the men's doubles gold medalists Kim Sa-rang and Kim Gi-jung, all competing on July 12, 2015. (Yonhap)

The Universiade fell at the start of the annual monsoon season. Gwangju and its surrounding areas did receive some rain, but for the most part, the inclement weather didn't have a major impact on the competition as a whole.

The one major event affected by rain was baseball. Some preliminary games were pushed back, and the gold medal game in baseball between Japan and Chinese Taipei was canceled, with the two nations being declared co-champions.

The Universiade opened at the height of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) scare in South Korea. Some athletes withdrew from the competition citing their concerns over the viral disease that has claimed more than 30 lives in the country since late May.

However, MERS didn't affect anyone during the competition, with the organizers urging participants to take precautionary measures and the athletes more than willing to cooperate.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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