Vault champion Yang a Rio doubt after Achilles blow

Thu Mar 24, 2016 12:37am EDT
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SEOUL (Reuters) - Olympic vault champion Yang Hak-seon, South Korea's first gold medal winner in gymnastics, looks set to miss out on the chance to defend his title at Rio de Janeiro Games after suffering an Achilles injury.

Yang, also vault world champion in 2011 and 2013, suffered the injury during floor practice at the Taeneung National Training Center in Seoul on Tuesday and had surgery the following day.

"The rehab is expected to take three to four months," Han Chung-sik, a Korea Gymnastic Association official, told the Yonhap news agency.

"Even if Yang recovers before the Olympics, he will not have had enough training to compete.

"He may demonstrate skills in the air, but it will be difficult for him to perform at the Olympics if he can't land well."

The 23-year-old Yang, who had been practicing for the first round of the national trials next month, soared to the top of the world in the vault on the back of his signature triple-twisting front somersault, which is named after him.

It was the successful execution of this maneuver, which carried the highest level of difficulty coefficient, that set him on his way to the gold medal as a teenager at the London Olympics.

Yang, then a student who supported his impoverished parents from his Korea Gymnastic Association stipend, has been regularly sidelined by injuries since his London triumph, however.

A second, unnamed, Korean gymnastics official told Yonhap that Yang had sustained the injury doing routine floor work, not attempting a complicated maneuver.   Continued...

Gold medalist Yang Hak-seon of South Korea shows his medal on the podium during an awarding ceremony after competed on the vault at men's apparatus final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo October 16, 2011.   REUTERS/Toru Hanai