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Korean Youth Handball Shakes the World

Posted August. 12, 2005 03:04,   


The score was tied, 31-31. Razor-sharp tension filled the stadium.

Jin Jung-hoon (19, Kyung Hee University) soared into the air and hurled the ball at Denmark’s goal. As soon as it shot past the goalkeeper’s widespread arms and legs into the goal’s net, the final whistle sounded.

The Korean players leaped and cheered. They ran repeated circles around the stadium with a large national flag streaming from their hands. At that moment, there was no bitterness at playing an “unpopular” sport, no memory of the grueling process of training when the thought of giving up had been a daily temptation.

So it was that on August 11, Korea defeated Denmark, 32-31 in a fierce semi-final match to advance to the finals of the World Youth Handball Championship being held in Doha, Qatar.

The under-19 Korean national team, which had ranked second in Group A, excelled as Eom Hyo-won (10 goals), Hong Jin-ki (nine goals), Kim Sung-jin (four goals) and Han Gi-bong (four goals) flew over the competition. In the end, they prevailed over Denmark, the world’s top-rated team and Group B leader.

The national team is composed mainly of college freshmen born in 1986 or 1987. Yong Min-ho (17), who entered the game as a substitute goalkeeper and blocked eight out of 25 goals, is still a senior in high school. He is also the younger brother of Yong Se-ra (18, Korea National Sport University), who is currently leading the charge at the Women’s Junior World Championships in the Czech Republic.

The players average just 181.5cm in height, and 76.3kg in weight. There’s a height difference of almost 10cm between the Korean team and the European teams.

National team coach Park Young-dae (Samcheok University) said, “There was a lot of pressure going into the match against Denmark, ranked as the strongest in the world, but our players’ confidence and spirit prevailed over theirs.” He stressed, “We will take the victory in the finals as well, with forward defense, outside shots, and speed attacks.”

In the final match scheduled for August 12, Korea will face off against Serbia-Montenegro, who defeated Croatia on the same day, for the first-ever world championship title.

Meanwhile, at the 15th Women’s Junior World Championships, the women’s team extended its winning streak to seven games by beating East European champion Hungary, 26-22.

The Korean team has already secured a berth in the round of four on the previous day. With its win over Hungary, Korea took the top position in Group C/D. The semi-final round will be played on August 13 against Norway, currently in second place in Group A/B.

Jae-Yun Jung jaeyuna@donga.com