Asiad gives South Korea chance to end awful 2014 on a high
By Peter Rutherford
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's sporting reputation has taken a battering of late with a dire World Cup campaign in Brazil and disappointing medal haul from the Sochi Olympics, but a shot at redemption is at hand as 10,000 athletes from around the region pour into Incheon for the 17th Asian Games.
South Korea has played second fiddle to sports powerhouse China at the last four Games and would be happy to keep that streak going in Incheon, west of Seoul, where the target is 90 gold medals and maintaining bragging rights over rivals Japan.
Park Soon-ho, chief of South Korea's delegation to the Asian Games, acknowledged that 2014 had not been a good year for Korean sports but local athletes had the chance to turn that around in Incheon.
"I think Koreans have become a little bit distanced from sports due to poor performances at the Sochi Olympics and the Brazil World Cup," Park told local media.
"The Korean Olympic Committee will work hard to bring the nation’s attention back to sports by getting good results at the Asian Games."
South Korea will have 831 athletes competing at the Sept. 19 to Oct. 4 Games, the second-largest delegation behind China with 899. Japan is sending 717 athletes.
The Koreans have recorded their best gold-medal hauls when hosting the Asiad, winning 93 at the 1986 Seoul Games, and 96 at the Busan Games in 2002.
A gold-medal laden performance would be well received in South Korea, where the mood has been one of grief and despair following the Sewol ferry disaster in April. Continued...