Every Asian Games has produced young risers and shooting stars who made their mark in the world’s sporting scene, and the 19th Hangzhou Asiad was no exception.
Many of Korea’s fresh new stars proved their stalwart presence in their respective sports and are set to shake up the world order at the upcoming Paris Olympics next year.
Triple gold medalist archer Lim Si-hyeon was the biggest breakout star at the Hangzhou Asian Games, becoming the first archer who won more than two gold medals at a single Asiad since 1986.
At her maiden Asian Games, the 20-year old archer started her gold medal hunt in the mixed doubles event, teaming up with Lee Woo-seok, who also won another gold in the men’s team archery.
Then, she took her second gold in the women’s team event and the third in the individual event, where she defeated An San, reigning Olympic champion.
The final of the women’s recurve team event was the highlight of her outstanding composure and calmness, proving she is not just an athlete who happened to be making her Asiad debut but one who could have another successful competition ahead at Paris 2024.
Swimming phenom Kim Woo-min also stood out at the Hangzhou Asian Games, claiming a total of four medals in four freestyle events, including three golds in the men’s freestyle events.
He became only the third swimmer from the country to win three titles at a single Asiad, joining Choi Yun-hui and Park Tae-hwan.
In particular, he was a key member of Korea’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay team, which made history by winning the country’s first-ever Asiad relay title.
His teammate Hwang Sun-woo, who already made a splash in the world championships earlier this year, also made his presence strongly felt in the pool at his Asian Games debut. He grabbed six medals, including two golds from the men’s 200m freestyle and 4x200m relay, reaching the podium in every race he entered.
Hwang’s six medals are the second most in a single meet in Korean swimming history, behind Olympic gold medalist Park Tae-hwan
Hwang excelled with his time records. In 200m freestyle, he clocked in 1:44.40, breaking his own national record and also the 13-year-old Asian Games record.
In the 4x200m relay, Hwang anchored the Korean team to the historic gold with a new Asian record of 7:01.73.
The two young swimmers will start their journey to the Paris Olympics with the upcoming world championships in February.
In badminton, reigning world champ and world No. 1 An Se-young finally shined at the top of the podium at a multisport competition, presenting her world-class performance in the women’s team and singles events to become a double gold medalist in Hangzhou.
Five years ago, then teenager An competed in two events at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, and left the competition empty-handed.
After reaching the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, An rose to a top class player on the world stage, claiming the world championship title earlier this year.
She is the first Korean female badminton player to win the women’s singles title at an Asiad since legendary Bang Soo-hyun did so in 1994.
The 21-year-old has now emerged as a strong gold medal favorite at the Paris Games next year.
Star fencer Oh Sang-uk also captured two titles in the men’s sabre competition, solidifying the country’s dominance on the piste.
He won the all-Korean duel with compatriot Gu Bon-gil and frustrated Gu’s hunt for his sixth and seventh career Asiad gold in Hangzhou.
Female veteran fencer Choi In-jeong also won two gold medals in the women’s individual and team epee fencing competition, celebrating her last Asian Games finale with multiple golds. She said she will retire from the national fencing team after Hangzhou.
Pentathlete Jun Woong-tae was Korea’s first double gold medalist, making a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the men’s individual modern pentathlon and helping the country win the team event.
The trio of Kwak Yong-bin, Ha Kwang-chul and Jeong You-jin claimed two team golds in the men’s 10m running target and the men’s 10m running target mixed run events. Their gold medals are the country’s only golds won in shooting.
At the same time, some athletes competing in new-generation sports such as esports and breaking came into the spotlight.
Korea won the inaugural title of the League of Legends (LOL) competition, with some professional gamers, like Lee Sang-hyeok, or Faker, becoming gold medalists.
In the Street Fighter V video game competition, 44-year old gamer Kim Gwan-woo also became the first Asiad champion. (Yonhap)