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|August 17, 2000||
South Korea banks on Taekwondo goldSuk Duk-woo in Seoul
The ancient South Korean traditional martial art, akin to Japanese karate or Chinese kung-fu, makes its debut as an Olympic event in Sydney and there are high hopes for three to four golds.
"I believe Taekwondo will continue to stand firm as an official event in future Olympics," said Kim Un-yong, president of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) and an executive board member of the International Olympic Committee.
Taekwondo has been practiced in Korea for some 2000 years, but only in the last decade or so has it spread beyond the peninsula.
That's because the sport's popularity has soared over the past decade or so since it was first introduced to a global audience as a demonstration event at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
More than 40 million people around the world have taken some instruction in the sport and some 152 nations are now members of the World Taekwondo Federation based in Seoul.
Some 8,000 South Korean instructors teach the sport abroad.
South Korea should win the gold in at least three of the four weight classes in which they are participating, Kim said. There are four men's and four women's classes.
But the United States, China, Taiwan, Spain, Germany, Egypt and Jordan are also expected to have strong teams.
North Korea is not sending a team, although the art of Taekwondo is believed to have originated in what is now North Korea.
South Korea traces the origin of Taekwondo back to the Koguryo dynasty, which was founded in 37 B.C. in present-day North Korea. Murals found in the ruins of royal tombs depict scenes of warriors practising the martial art.
South Korea, which ranked 10th with seven golds in the 1996 Atlanta Olympiad, will also be very competitive in archery, wrestling, badminton, judo, table-tennis, women's handball, weightlifting, gymnastics and shooting, the Korean Olympics chief said.
The Korean Olympic Committee is sending about 400 athletes and is aiming for 10 to 12 golds.
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