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Where did all the gold medals go?

Aug 29,2018
With the 2018 Asian Games nearing an end, it’s becoming clear that the chance of finishing second in the medal standing for a sixth consecutive Asiad has slipped out of Korea’s reach.

As of Tuesday at 7 p.m., Korea has won 31 golds, 12 less than Japan. Although Korea has never been in with a shot of topping the medal standing, as China easily takes home more than 100 golds each Games, finishing third is a huge disappointment. Korea has secured the runner-up spot for five straight events, from 1998 to 2014.

China has once again run away with first place this year. As of Tuesday 7 p.m., China has 89 golds, more than Japan and Korea combined.

Things have been bad from the start. From day one - the opening ceremony on Aug. 19 - Korea has trailed in third place. Japan got off to a flying start with a gold medal streak in the swimming pool and never looked back. Of the 41 gold medals up for grabs in swimming, Japan has won 19. Including silver and bronze, Japan has won a total of 52 medals in the pool, even more than China. Young Japanese star swimmer Rikako Ikee cemented the country’s dominance with six golds and two silvers at her first Asian Games.

With her successful debut, Ikee has become the female athlete to win the most golds at a single Games in Asiad history. She is second overall behind So Gil-san of North Korea, who won seven golds at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.

In addition to swimming, Japan’s medal streak is likely to continue in athletics.

Japan, who made a big investment in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, started off with a surprise win in badminton. Under Korean coach Park Joo-bong, the Japanese women’s team defeated Korea in the final to win gold for the first time in 48 years. The men’s team finished with bronze, their first medal in 48 years.

While Japan has shown big improvements, Korea has shown a lot less competitiveness even in sports that it used to dominate.

Despite being weaker in big sports like swimming and athletics, Korea has maintained its dominance in sports like archery, taekwondo, badminton and fencing. This year even those old stalwarts were not to be seen, with the exception of fencing where Korea took home six of 12 available medals.

In badminton, Korea failed to medal in either the men’s or women’s team events for the first time in 40 years. Taekwondo results were also disappointing - Korea aimed for nine golds and finished with just five.

In archery, the women’s team failed to advance to the final in recurve individuals for the first time in Asian Games history. They also failed to advance in the newly added mixed event.

Korea finished its archery campaign with a total of four gold, three silver and a bronze at this year’s Asiad.

Korea wasn’t able to turn the tables on Japan and find success in swimming and athletics either. Korea took just two gold -Kim Seo-yeong in the 200-meter individual medley and Jung Hye-lim in 100-meter hurdles.

Starting today, the Korean judo team will begin their Asian Games, with a goal of winning at least five gold medals. But even if Korea’s judokas dominate the mat and its squads sweep the team sports, Team Korea’s original target of 65 golds has become pretty much unattainable.

BY PARK SO-YOUNG, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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