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The Peninsula

South Korean Athletes to Watch in Rio

Published August 5, 2016
Category: South Korea, Culture

By Caleb Cho and Hojun Song

In London in 2012, the South Korean team walked away with 28 medals, placing them fifth in the medal count. This year, they are expected to rake in a similar number of medals, with the Peterson Institute’s Marcus Noland projecting they will capture 30. Below, find our list of the Korean athletes to watch for in Rio.


Women’s Archery Team Category (Sunday, August 7)

Women’s Archery Individual Category (Friday, August 12)

Ki Bo-Bae, who won the gold medal in both the women’s individual and team category at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, is an expected Olympic Champion this year. She is currently the top ranked archer in the world. Her teammates in Rio, Choi Mi-Sun and Chang Hye-Jin, have no Olympic experience, so it’s up to Ki to lead South Korea’s women’s archery team to South Korea’s eighth consecutive gold medal.


Men’s Doubles (Friday, August 19)

The team of Lee Yong-dae and Yoo Yeon-seong are favorites for the gold medal in men’s doubles this year. Lee was a gold medalist in Mixed Doubles at the 2008 Olympics and bronze in 2012. The pair is going into this year’s competition ranked first in the world.


Men’s Bantam 56kg (Wednesday, August 10)

Ham Sangmyeong is aiming to get on the medal stand in Rio. He won gold in the Men’s 56 kg Boxing at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, fourth in the 2015 AIBA Pro Boxing Championships, and is ranked third in the world by the organization.


Women’s Sabre Individual Category (Monday, August 8)

Kim Ji-Yeon, the 2012 Olympic Champion in the women’s sabre individual fencing, is expected to win the gold medal this year as well. Kim was the first South Korean woman to win an Olympic gold medal in fencing. Shin A-Lam, who controversially lost to a German fencer after a timekeeping error extended bout time in the semifinals of the women’s individual épée at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, is expected to add one more medal for South Korea. The South Korean fencing team won a total of two gold medals, one silver medal, and three bronze medals in the 2012 London Summer Olympics, leaving them in good position for Rio.


Men’s Vault and Floor Categories (Saturday, August 6)

Kim Han-sol placed fifth at the 2014 International Gymnastics Federation World Championships, and then sixth and eighth in vault and floor respectively in 2015. In Rio, he is expected to contend for bronze in those two categories.


Men’s 90kg (Wednesday, August 10)

Ranked second in the world, Gwak Dong-han won several medals in regional and world championship games in 2015, and was named “2015 Best Player” by the Korea Judo Association. He is expected to contend for gold in Rio.


Women’s 57kg (Thursday, August 18)

Women’s 67kg (Friday, August 19)

Although taekwondo is originally a Korean martial art, South Korea only won a single gold medal and a silver medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. This year two female taekwondo practitioners will participate in the Olympics. Kim So-Hui is a two-time World Taekwondo Champion. It will be interesting to see whether she can defeat the Chinese champion, Wu Jingyu, in the Women’s 57kg at this year’s Olympics. Oh Hye-Ri is also expected to add a medal in the Women’s 67kg. In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, all four Korean practitioners won gold medals.

Track and Field

Men’s Long Jump (Friday, August 12)

Kim Deok-hyeon is the top ranked Korean long jumper, and is currently ranked 11th in the world. He is hoping to capture a medal in Rio but faces tough competition.

Rhythmic Gymnastics

Women’s individual all-around (Friday, August 19)

Son Yeon-Jae, who ranked the fifth at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, aims to win a medal. She is the 2014 Asian Games All-around Champion and three-time (2016, 2015, 2013) Asian Championship All-around Champion. Because the Russian rhythmic gymnasts are allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics despite Russia’s doping scandal, Son Yeon-Jae will face tough competition and is expected to win the bronze medal.


Women’s Individual (Saturday, August 20)

Golf returns to the Olympics after a 112-year absence. Thanks to South Korea’s recent dominance in golf, four top-class woman golfers, Chun In-Gee, Park In-Bee, Yang Hee-Young, and Kim Sei-Young, are expected to be in contention for medals. South Korea is the only country sending four woman golfers to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, all of whom are in the top 10 of the 2016 Olympic Golf Final Rankings.


Women’s 25m Pistol (Tuesday, August 9)

South Korea won three gold medals and two silver medals in shooting events at the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Kim Jang-mi, the Women’s 25 Meter Pistol Champion, is expected to achieve good results at the Rio Olympics as well.

Men’s 10m air pistol (Saturday, August 6)

Men’s 50m pistol (Wednesday, August 10)

Jin Jong-oh is far and away the favorite to cinch two gold medals in Rio. Holding World records in 50m pistol (2013), 10m air pistol (2015); Jin won the gold medal in the 50m pistol in 2008 and gold in the 10m air pistol and 50m pistol at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Table Tennis

Women’s Singles (Saturday, August 6)

Table Tennis is one of sports dominated by China. Since the 1999 Seoul Olympics, China has won 24 gold medals out of 28. However, it is remarkable that three of the remaining gold medals were captured by South Korea. This year Jeon Jihee, Suh Hyo-Won, and Yang Ha-Eun will do their best to stop China’s domination in this event.

Men’s Team (Friday, August 12)

Much like the women, the South Korean men’s table tennis team will have to contend with the dominant Chinese team to grab a medal in Rio. Joo Saehyuk has consistently ranked as one of the 40 best table tennis players in the world, and will attempt to lead his team to back-to-back silver medals.


Men’s Greco-Roman 75kg (Sunday, August 14)

Kim Hyeon-woo won gold in Men’s 66 kg wrestling in London, got a Grand Slam in Wrestling-Asia Championships in 2013, and finished first in the 2013 World Championships and at the 2014 Asian Games. He is a favorite to cinch the gold in Rio.

Caleb Cho and Hojun Song are interns with the Korea Economic Institute of America. Both are masters candidates at Tufts University. The views expressed here are the authors alone.

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