Posted August. 23, 2008 07:40,
Baseball slugger Lee Seung-yeop yesterday hit a crucial two-run homer in the eighth inning of the semifinal against Japan, helping to send Korea to its first Olympic final.
With the score tied 2-2, Lee stepped into the batter`s box amid a slump in which he hit just 0.100 in the Olympics. He hit into a double play and struck out twice in the game. Korean Web sites were once flooded with angry posts demanding his benching.
Lee, however, didn`t even flinch. Despite a count of two strikes and one ball, he hit a two-run homer off Japans top reliever Hitoki Iwase. The ball went over the right fence and landed in the bleachers on the Japanese side, where two Japanese flags were flying. Korea went on to win the game 6-2.
Starting Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun was also instrumental in the win, allowing six hits and one run over eight innings.
Korea will play Cuba Saturday for the gold medal.
With the Beijing Olympics marking the last hurrah for baseball as an Olympic sport, Korean players are eyeing their countrys first and last Olympic title. The Korean baseball team is the only undefeated team in the tournament.
Cuba is the only country to win all of its games in an Olympics, accomplishing the feat twice in Barcelona and Atlanta.
Korea won the bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, its best performance in the competition.
Pitcher Kim has emerged as a Japan killer, overwhelming Japanese hitters both in the Konami Cup Asia Series last year and Olympic preliminaries.
In taekwondo, two-time world champion Hwang Kyung-seon won the gold in the women`s 67-kilogram class.
Hwang beat Sandra Saric of Croatia, 3-1, in the quarterfinals and then Karine Sergerie of Canada, 2-1, in the final at the Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium.
Hwang also defeated Sheikha Almaktoum of the United Arab Emirates in the first round, 5-1.