Taekwondo, led by Jang Jun-Idabin, saves the pride of a crumbling jongju nation

South Korea’s “national” sport, taekwondo, is always expected to win a lot of medals at the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games (AG), and its reputation as a “gold mine” or “medal field” is well-deserved, as it has won 53 gold medals since its inception at the 1986 Seoul Games.

At the last Jakarta-Palembang Games, the country won five of the 14 gold medals (two in poomsae and three in taekwondo).

In recent years, however, she has struggled to win as many medals as she once did due to the upward trend in the world of taekwondo. At the last Olympics in Tokyo 2020, the sport suffered a “no-gold” disgrace. However, it is still the most anticipated event for the Korean team.

A total of 13 gold medals are on the line for taekwondo in Hangzhou. Compared to five years ago, there is one less due to the addition of the mixed team event and the removal of the men’s and women’s team events from Poomsae.

South Korea has 13 athletes competing in the men’s and women’s competition, mixed team event, and men’s and women’s poomsae events.

In the men’s competition, Jang Joon (Korea Gas Corp.), Park Woo-hyuk (Samsung S-One), and Lee Da-bin (Seoul Metropolitan Government) are the favorites in the men’s 58kg category.

Jang has been touted as the heir apparent to Korean taekwondo legend Lee Dae-hoon.

Already a junior national team member and international gold medalist as a high schooler, Jang made a splash at the national trials ahead of the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games, where he took on Incheon 2014 gold medalist Kim Tae-hoon in a close match.

Although he lost that match and did not make the AG, he has since improved and established himself as a national team ace.

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he faced Kim again in the national team selection process and came out on top. Although the team only won a bronze medal instead of a gold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a promising start.

For the first time in his career, Zhang Jun is determined to make up for his Olympic failure.

Lee Da-bin is one of the biggest stars in South Korean women’s taekwondo. Having won gold at the 2014 Incheon Games and 2018 Jakarta-Palembang, she will be looking to make it three in a row in Hangzhou.

Unlike in Incheon, where she was just a high school student, Lee is now a senior member of the national team. She still has the same passion, but she’s also gained a lot of experience.

In particular, Idabin suffered a humiliating 0-2 round robin loss to Maristella Smiraglia (ITA) in the round of 16 at the Tokyo Olympics, and she is determined to win the gold medal with a perfect performance at the AG.

Park Woo-hyuk may not be as well-known as Jang Joon and Lee Da-bin, but he is no slouch either, having won gold at the World Championships last year. It had been 23 years since a South Korean athlete had won a gold medal in the 80kg category at the World Championships since Jang Jong-oh in 1999 in Edmonton, Canada.

Park Woo-hyuk has prepared for the AG with a thorough analysis of his opponents and professional physical training, and will be looking to cement his country’s status as a taekwondo dominant force on the international stage.

Other medal prospects include Jin Ho-joon (Suwon City Hall) in the men’s 68kg category, who won a surprise silver medal at the World Championships in May 안전놀이터.

In Poomsae, which is contested on a 12-meter-long by 12-meter-wide arena, Kang Wan-jin (Hongcheon Cheonan City Hall) will try to win gold in the men’s individual event, while Cha Ye-eun (Kyung Hee University) will try to strike gold in the women’s individual event.

Meanwhile, taekwondo at the Hangzhou Asian Games will be held over five days, starting with Poomsae on Sept. 24, a day after the opening day, and ending on Sept. 28.

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