Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, September 23, 2002

Asian Games Preview: Chinese, South Korean Fencers to Showdown

The 12-gold fencing event at the upcoming Busan Asian Games is inevitably to see a full-scale showdown between Chinese fencers and hosts South Koreans, who are expected to combine at least 11 gold medals.


The 12-gold fencing event at the upcoming Busan Asian Games is inevitably to see a full-scale showdown between Chinese fencers and hosts South Koreans, who are expected to combine at least 11 gold medals.

South Korea, who clinched five of the 10 gold medals in fencing at the 1998 Bangkok Asiad and an Olympic individual title of men's foil in Sydney, has set the target of guaranteeing six golds and striving for more to outscore China in Busan.

China, who tied South Korea, their arch rivals in Asia, with five golds in the Bangkok Asian Games and grabbed an individual gold of women's sabre at the Lisbon World Fencing Championships last month, has set a low-key aim of fighting for five golds or more in Busan.

"Although the Chinese fencers have the strength to strive for 10 golds except men's team and individual epee, we have to give full consideration of the host advantages taken by South Koreans,"Wang Wei, secretary general of the Chinese Fencing Association, said during a pre-Asiad practice in Beijing.

All South Korean fencers are more like fighters in the arena than those from other countries and regions, and they always seem to have unmeasurable strength and are mentally tough in competitions, Wang said, adding that Chinese fencers boast fast breaks and better team work.

"We have good chances in winning several team events including men's foil, men's sabre, women's sabre, women's epee and the individual women's sabre, as the Chinese fencers are almost at the equal level," Wang said.

At the Lisbon championships, the Chinese men's sabre team beat their South Korean opponents twice, while the Chinese women's epee team finished third, and Tan Xue, the new shinning star, took the first-ever individual championships' title for China in women's sabre.

The Chinese fencers in men's individual foil and women's team foil are also capable of challenging their South Korean rivals andthe chances for the title are fifty to fifty in normal situation, Wang added.

China's star foil fencer Wang Haibin, who took the individual gold at the Bangkok Asiad, is expected to confront South Korean veteran Kim Young-ho, who was beaten by Wang to the individual silver in Bangkok but clinched the individual gold at the Sydney Olympic Games.

"This final will be the first and the toughest duel between the Chinese and South Korean fencing teams as it will produce the first gold medal in the Busan Asiad," Wang said.

"I know that hosts South Korea will do its utmost to grab this gold but we also won't give up."

In women's team foil competitions, Meng Jie, the 26-year-old national champion of the individual event, will spearhead the teamto challenge the South Korean side which is expected to be led by veteran Lim Mi-Kyung, the sliver medalist of the individual event at Bangkok Asiad.

"Our four women foil fencers are at the same level of strength but most of them are inexperienced as they were selected to the national team after the 2000 Olympics Games and did not participate in many high-level international competitions," Ren Daxin, the coach of the Chinese women's foil team, said.

The South Korean fencing team is superior in men's team and individual epee, as it came third in both the events at the Lisbon championships. The team also boasts a champion in women's individual epee and a top eight place in women's individual foil at the championships.

"There are also two fencers each from Thailand and China's HongKong who will complicate the gold-taking duel between China and South Korea," Wang Wei said.

Wiradech Kothny, who took the individual bronze of men's sabre and helped the German team finish third at Sydney Olympic Games, will represent Thailand to participate in the Busan Asiad, Wang said.

Kothny, whose father is a Thai and mother is a German, is in the top eight of the world rankings, and he is in no doubt the toughest opponent to both Chinese and South Korean fencers.

"He has the 70 percent opportunity of winning the individual men's sabre," Wang predicted.

In women's individual sabre event, Zhou Ziqi from China's Hong Kong, who took the title in this year's national youth championships, will pose a threat to Tan Xue, Wang said.

"Although Tan Xue had beaten Zhou in the final of the national championships in June, that clash was very intense and Tan won through extremely hard efforts.

"All in all, China and South Korea will surely continue to dominate the fencing competitions in this year's Asian Games to beheld in South Korean port city of Busan on September 29-October 14.

As hosts, South Korea will have a bit more opportunity to be ranked first on the gold tally.

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