Korea Aims for 2nd-Place Finish at Upcoming Asian Games

More than 13,000 athletes will descend on Incheon for the 17th Asian Games in just 50 days. Athletes from 45 Asian countries will compete in 35 disciplines during the 16-day event.

This is the third Asian Games hosted by Korea, following the 1986 Asiad in Seoul and the 2002 event in Busan. North Korea will send its athletes and cheerleaders this time, although there are some issues over the size of its delegation and accommodations.

Korea aims to finish in second place for the fifth consecutive Asian Games and hopes to win 90 gold medals. Korea won 76 gold medals in the previous Asian Games in Guangzhou four years ago.

"If the athletes perform just like they do in training, Korea will be able to achieve its goals," said Kim Sung-cheol, a coach who takes care of training of the national team.

Swimmer Park Tae-hwan is expected to get the most attention this time. He is aiming to win two gold medals in three consecutive Asian Games in the men's 200-m and 400-m freestyle. To do so, Park must overcome his Chinese rival Sun Yang. Park shared a silver medal in the 200 m at the 2012 Olympics in London with Sun and won silver in the 400 m behind gold medalist Sun.

To support Park, a swimming pool for the Asian Games in Incheon was built and named after him.

"As the event will take place in a swimming complex named after me, I will do all I can to beat my personal best," Park said.

Another star in focus would be rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae.

Four years ago in Guangzhou, Son won bronze, becoming the first Korean ever to medal in the sport. Since then, Son has grown to become one of the top rhythmic gymnasts in the world, and this time, she is hoping to stand at the top of the podium.

She is currently ranked sixth in the world, the highest among Asian gymnasts. "My goal is to win gold at the Asian Games," she said. "I'd like to do well, especially since I will be competing at home."

Korea is also expected to win more medals in shooting and fencing, which brought 15 and seven gold medals in Guangzhou respectively.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 31, 2014 10:31 KST