Asiad: South Korea face rivals, technology in taekwondo

GUANGZHOU, China, Nov 16, 2010 (AFP) - South Korea are counting on young talent to retain their Asian Games taekwondo supremacy as they face up to the combined challenge of determined rivals and a new electronic scoring system.

They face particular threats from Iranian men and Chinese women as the competition kicks off on Wednesday with 16 titles on offer over four days.

Iran feature an exceptional men's team with fighters ranked top in the world -- Reza Naderian (63kg), Mohammad Bagheri Motamed (68kg), Alireza Nassrazadany (74kg), Yousef Karami (87kg) and Hossein Tajik (87kg).

The Chinese women are led by 49kg defending champion Wu Jingyu, who has also won the Beijing Olympic gold medal and the Asian championship.

At the last 2006 Asian Games in Doha, South Korea won nine out of 16 gold medals, including five men's. China trailed with three golds, all in women's events. Iran, Taiwan, Jordan and Qatar each won one.

"We aim for a total of eight gold medals with the women beating China and the men beating Iran," said South Korea's Asiad coach Ryoo Byung-Kwan.

China coach Kim Young-Jin, a South Korean, admitted the home country of taekwondo is "one of our strongest opponents".

"But most of the players in the Korean team are new to competition," he said. "So compared to them we have much more international competition experience and better chances of winning."

The South Korean men's squad include Lee Dae-Hoon, who won the men's 63kg title at the 2007 Korea Open, and 2005 world 87kg bronze medallist Heo Jun-Nyung.

Lee Sung-Hye, the 2007 world women's 57kg champion, aims to defend her Asian Games title and Hwang Mi-Na hopes to add the 46kg Asiad title to her 2010 World Student Game gold medal. Kwon Eun-Kyung defends the women's 53kg title.

Wu, the women's 49kg Olympic champion, faces her archrival Yang Shu-Chun of Taiwan, whom she defeated in Doha and Beijing. Yang, 25, is expected to retire after the Asian Games.

"I think Yang's technique shows more experience and Wu has better mental qualities," Taiwan coach Liu Congda said. "But Yang has improved a lot in her mental state."

Thailand pin their hopes on world number two Buttree Puedpong in the women's 46kg who grabbed the Beijing Olympic silver medal.

South Korea will also be put to the test by new technology.

The 2009 world championships became the first major tournament where competitors were required to wear electronic sensors in their body armour and socks so that effective kicks are detected more objectively.

But the new system has forced fighters to learn how to adjust their body movements and have the foot sensors hit the body sensors to score.

Ryoo, the South Korean coach said: "It has become harder for Korean players who are not used to the new system."

South Korea have maintained their taekwondo supremacy since winning seven out of eight men's titles on offer at the sport's Asiad debut in 1986. The first women's competition was held in 1998.

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