Thu, Dec 07, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Asian Games: S Korea's taekwondo stranglehold could slip


A whole lot of shaking as well as kicking, punching and yelling returns to the Asian Games arena as South Korea aims to maintain its stranglehold on its 2,000-old fighting sport of taekwondo.

But with taekwondo spreading worldwide under expatriate coaches, Korean masters are taking nothing for granted as Iran, China and Taiwan are ready to challenge.

"We are not complacent," said Kim Moo-cheon, competition and planning manager of the Korea Taekwondo Association. "We had overwhelmed other countries before, but Asian players have improved their ability to narrow the gap. We are especially concerned about Iran."

South Korea won seven out of eight men's taekwondo gold medals when the sport made its Asian Games debut in Seoul in 1986 with Iran preventing a sweep.

The women's contest was not held until 1998 and the sport joined the Olympic program in 2000.

At the last 2002 Asian Games in Busan, South Korea's share of golds was down at 12 out of 16. They won six men's titles against one each for Taiwan and Iran and six women's title against two for Taiwan.

In Doha, South Korea fields a maxium six men and six women. Only the host nation can compete in all 16 categories, eight each for men and women.

"We will go for at least seven gold medals," coach Jeon Ik-ki said. "All of our competitors have medal chances."

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