Medal Hopes (26) Roller Skating Kwangho Choi, Chul-won Jung

South Korean roller skating is dominated by the speed discipline.

Public interest in roller skating began to grow in 2004 when Kwok Chae-i, a two-time junior world champion, gained popularity as an “inline darling”.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, “Roller Queen” Woo Hyo-sook dominated the international scene, turning South Korea into a roller powerhouse.메이저사이트

In 2003, at the age of 17, she became the first Korean roller to win a senior gold medal at the World Championships, followed by a gold medal at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and four world titles in 2011.

Led by Woo, the Korean team defeated world champion Colombia at the 2009 World Championships to take first place overall (15 gold, 15 silver, 9 bronze) and swept the medal table at the Guangzhou Asian Games with three gold, two silver, and two bronze medals, establishing the sport as a “filial sport.

South Korea’s Woo Hyo-sook reacts after winning the inline roller EP 10,000m final with 31 points at the Asian Games at the Guangzhou Velodrome in Guangzhou, China, Nov. 24, 2010. [Yonhap Photo]

However, the sport’s popularity has waned, and a lack of generational change in the national team has greatly diminished South Korean roller’s standing.

The team finished 13th overall at last year’s World Championships with one silver and two bronze “gold” medals.

As an unpopular sport, it has a narrow presence at the Asian Games.

It was first included in the program at Guangzhou 2010, but was dropped from Incheon 2014 and reduced to two men’s and women’s road 20,000-meter races at Jakarta-Palembang 2018.

At this year’s Games, it was expanded to three events – the 1,000-meter sprint, the 10,000-meter steeplechase (EP) and the 3.000-meter relay – but its existence will be in jeopardy again at the 2026 Games in Aichi and Nagoya.

As such, the speed squad is desperate to go for gold as this could be their last Asian Games appearance.

Leading the way will be Choi Kwang-ho (30-Daegu City Hall) and Chung Chul-won (27-Andong City Hall) in the men’s 1,000 meters.

While Choi Kwang-ho is a veteran with two silver medals at the Asian Games, Chung Chul-won is a newcomer who was in contention for the title at last year’s World Championships.

Choi won silver in the EP 10,000 meters at Guangzhou 2010 and was runner-up in the 20,000 meters at Jakarta-Palembang 2018.

No stranger to short and long distances, Choi will be aiming for a gold medal in the 1,000 meters this time around.

Chung crossed the line first in the 1,000 meters at last year’s World Championships, but was disqualified after an unfortunate foul call.

Chung clocked 1:24.274 in the first round of selection for the Asian Games team, ahead of Choi Kwang-ho (1:24.333).

The two will compete head-to-head in their individual events, but will join forces in the 5,000-meter relay for gold.

Neither is young, so they are counting down the days until they step onto the start line, knowing that this could be their last Asian Games.

The speedsters are aiming for a total of three gold medals, including the women’s 5,000-meter relay.

“I think (arch-rivals) Chinese Taipei are better prepared because they started their joint training earlier, and they may have an edge in endurance,” said Kim, but “we have a better sense of course utilization and positioning, so if we use that to our advantage, we have a good chance.”

“Choi Kwang-ho is a silent and quiet player who works hard, while Chung Chul-won is more confident and positive in his thinking,” Kim said.

“I look up to Choi Kwang-ho because he is an active athlete who has set a great record of advancing to three consecutive Asian Games,” Chung said, “and I am preparing hard with the mindset of ‘we can both do well’ while competing in good faith.”