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Excitement Begins Again in Athens

Posted September. 17, 2004 22:08,   


The 2004 Athens Paralympics had its opening ceremony today at 2:00 a.m. (Korean time), beginning 12 days of fierce athletic competition.

Approximately 4,000 athletes from 140 countries with various disabilities such as spinal paralysis, cerebral palsy, and impaired eyesight, will compete in 18 games (and 531 detailed events) this year.

This 12th Paralympic Games features subdivisions of athletic events by types and degrees of disabilities of the participants. There will be exhibitions by people with Down Syndrome in running, swimming, and table tennis as well.

South Korea, whose 127 athletes are participating in 13 events including archery, running, cycling, and fencing, is targeting 16 golds to finish 12th in the medal rankings. S. Korea has been attending the Paralympics since the 1968 Tel Aviv Games, the third games ever, and so far, the best score it has ever achieved was the 40 medals won at the 1988 Seoul Games to rank seventh on the medal list that year. South Korea ranked ninth with 18 golds in the 2000 Sydney Games.

The events S. Korea shows strength in are archery, running, shooting, table tennis, and weigh lifting. The Korean team is expecting to win 15 gold medals from these five fields. In table tennis, Lee Hae-gon, 52, who won five golds in the Sydney Games, will challenge for five consecutive wins. Lee plays with his hand fixed to the racket by a bandage because his first-degree spinal paralysis keeps him from being able to grab it.

In riflery and archery, S. Korea expects five and three golds, respectively. In running, Choi Yong-jin (third-degree cerebral palsy), the 1500 m champion at the Sydney Games, is expected to win again.

Weight lifter Park Jong-cheol, who won the 82.5 kg event at the Sydney Games with a world record, is participating in the 90 kg, one weight level up. Chung Geum-jong is challenging for five consecutive wins in the 60 kg.

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com