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(Olympics) Beleaguered baseball team to open gold medal defense vs. Israel

Sports 09:00 July 28, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

TOKYO, July 28 (Yonhap) -- The defending champion South Korea will open its quest for a second straight baseball gold medal, 13 years apart, against Israel on Thursday.

The national baseball team, beleaguered in light of players' misconduct scandal, will also try to win over fans who have turned their backs on the sport.

Members of the South Korean Olympic baseball team pose for photos after beating the Kiwoom Heroes 2-1 in their final tuneup game before the Tokyo Olympics at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on July 25, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korea's first preliminary game against Israel starts at 7 p.m. at Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

Two players, second baseman Park Min-woo and pitcher Han Hyun-hee, withdrew from the team after violating social distancing rules in Seoul with late night drinking parties with their teammates and friends. Manager Kim Kyung-moon scrambled to name their replacements while also trying to keep the remaining players focused.

Whenever he's been asked about his objective at the Olympics, Kim has said he will let the players' actions on the field do all the talking.

Kim was also the South Korean manager when the country won the gold medal in 2008 with a perfect 9-0 record.

Also on Thursday, the men's golf tournament opens at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, north of the Japanese capital.

Park Ji-hyun of South Korea drives to the basket against Spain in the teams' Group A match of the Tokyo Olympic women's basketball tournament at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on July 26, 2021. (Yonhap)

South Korea will have Im Sung-jae, former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, and Kim Si-woo, a three-time PGA Tour winner, in the field.

Conspicuous by their absence will be two of the biggest names in men's golf. World No. 1 Jon Rahm and American bomber Bryson DeChambeau have both been knocked out because of COVID-19 infection.

The South Korean women's basketball team will play its second group match against Canada on Thursday. South Korea, world No. 19, played hard against the third-ranked Spain on Monday before losing 73-69.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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