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(Asian Games) S. Korea takes handball gold, rules a board game

All Headlines 23:24 November 26, 2010

By Yoo Jee-ho and Kim Boram

GUANGZHOU, China, Nov. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korean male handballers got their revenge against a Middle Eastern rival Friday to win their sixth Asian Games title. The country picked up two gold medals to complete a three-event sweep in a board game known to have originated in China. The men's basketball team and a young rhythmic gymnast put on valiant performances.

With one day left in the 16th Asiad, South Korea has 75 gold medals. It could win as many as three more gold medals Saturday in the men's marathon, men's double in sepaktakraw and in women's volleyball.

South Korea on Friday defeated Iran 32-28 to take the men's handball gold medal, avenging the 31-27 loss to the Middle Eastern nation in the bronze medal contest at the last Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

Lee Tea-young and Jeong Yi-kyeong had a combined total of 17 goals, and veteran Yoon Kyung-shin, playing in his sixth Asian Games, chipped in with six goals. South Korea led 16-9 at halftime and was never threatened the rest of the way. Iran made it close over the final three minutes but Lee Jae-woo and Jeong closed the deal.

South Korea won both the men's and women's team competitions in weiqi, a board game also known as 'go' or 'baduk' in South Korea. They both defeated Chinese players to win their gold.

Lee Min-jin, Kim Yoon-yeong and Cho Hye-yeon beat China in the best-of-three final. On the men's side, South Koreans Lee Chang-ho, Kang Dong-yoon and Choi Chul-han took care of the Chinese team.

South Korea earlier won the mixed doubles gold in weiqi, which made its Asian Games debut here.

In this board game, black and white "stones" are placed one by one on a board with 361 crosses made of 19 vertical lines and 19 horizontal lines. The player who occupies more area on the board by surrounding the opponent's stones wins the match.

On the basketball court, South Korea ran out of gas against China in the gold medal match, losing 77-71.

Down by a dozen points with about six minutes to go, South Korea made three straight three-pointers to quickly close the gap. But South Korea failed to score over the game's final two minutes and couldn't capitalize on five straight free throw misses by China in the last 20 seconds.

Both men's and women's hoops team for South Korea lost to China to take home silver medals. Men's head coach Yoo Jae-hak was encouraged by his players' performance despite the loss.

"Our players all put in great work," Yoo said. "I just wished the game were played at a place other than in China."

South Koreans played before an 15,000-strong sellout crowd at Guangzhou International Sports Arena amid deafening noise with each Chinese basket. Yoo also argued several offensive foul calls in the fourth quarter that could have turned the tide.

Center Kim Joo-sung was on the wrong end of some calls and the normally calm player lost his cool. But he later said South Korea as a team should learn to deal with officiating.

"Bad calls are part of the game, too," he said. "We have to get better so that we won't be affected by officiating. We're walking away with new confidence that we can be better on the international stage in the future."

South Korean women salvaged a bronze medal in handball, beating Kazakhstan 38-26. This is the first time South Korea failed to win an Asian Games gold in handball since it became the medal event starting with the 1990 Beijing Asiad.

South Korea lost 29-28 to Japan in Thursday's semifinal, after failing to recover from an early deficit and capitalize on fast break opportunities.

Men's volleyball is going home with a bronze, too, after beating Thailand 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 28-26) Friday in the third-place contest. South Korea had fallen to Japan in five sets Thursday, losing a bid to win its third straight Asian Games title.

Son Yeon-jae won the bronze medal in the individual all-around final event at rhythmic gymnastics, becoming the first South Korean to win an individual medal in her sport at an Asiad.

The all-around event combines scores in four disciplines -- rope, hoop, ball and ribbon. Son scored 26,900 in rope, 27.000 in hoop, 27.450 in ball and 27.100 in ribbon. Her scores in rope and ribbbon were the second highest in the field. Judges award points based on difficulty, artistry and execution of the routines.

South Korea won the team rhythimc gymnastics bronze in 1998 and 2002. But on Thursday, Son, Shin Soo-ji and Gim Yun-hee finished in fourth place, only 0.600 points behind Japan.

Son said she was down on herself until late Thursday night, but she was all smiles Friday.

"I am now so happy I put on a good performance in all-around and won the medal," she said. "I thought I was going to cry after winning a medal but I guess I'd already cried plenty last night."

Three of Son's four disciplines scored at least 27, which is considered a barometer for world-caliber gymnasts. Son said the judges might have been more generous than during the team event and that she cut down on little mistakes from the previous day.

At 16, Son is regarded as the future of South Korean rhythmic gymnastics. Her teammate, Shin, competed at the Beijing Olympics, but is already showing signs of breaking down at 19 and ranked only 10th here. Son only became eligible for senior events in 2010, after sweeping up South Korean national titles and winning hoop, rope and all-around titles at a junior meet in Slovenia in November last year.

Winning a rhythmic gymnastics medal at the Asian Games is considered almost as difficult as doing so at the Olympics or world championships because Asia is stacked with contenders from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

But Son is looking forward to the challenge already.

"I am going to start preparing myself now, so that I can win a medal at the London Olympics in two years' time," she said.

Also Friday, South Korea won its ninth medal from athletics Friday, as Park Jae-myoung took silver in the men's javelin throw at 79.92 meters.

Saturday is the last day of competition at these Asian Games and the gold medal contest in women's volleyball is the last event. South Korea is facing China, the three-time defending champ, in the volleyball final at 2 p.m., local time.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

brk@yna.co.kr
(END)

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