Unless you’re a big fan of the game, you’re probably surprised to hear that it’s part of the Asian Games programme, with three gold medals. In fact, it was at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games that the sport first made its debut, and it’s back again at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
While this is largely due to the influence of the host country, China, the inclusion of go in the Asian Games is a landmark event in the history of the game. In Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries, go has long been in the realm of art and taoism, but with the inclusion of the Asian Games, the National Championships, and the National Youth Games, go has become a ‘sport’, leaving behind all the controversy.
Shin Shin-seo: “The only competition I compete in with the flag on my chest, I will win”
At the 2010 Guangzhou Games, when the sport was first introduced, Korea swept to three golds (men’s, women’s and mixed pairs) and a bronze (mixed pairs), beating Japan and Chinese Taipei, who took three silver and one bronze. The Koreans, who had two indomitable giants in Lee Chang-ho and Lee Sedol, also defeated the hosts in the men’s and women’s team events with Cho Han-seung, Choi Cheol-han, Kang Dong-yoon and Park Jung-hwan (men) and Cho Hye-yeon, Lee Min-jin, Kim Yoon-young and Lee Seul-ah (women), and also won gold in the mixed pairs with Park Jung-hwan and Lee Seul-ah.
Three gold medals are up for grabs at this year’s Asian Games, which will feature men’s individual events instead of mixed pairs. Each country will field six men and four women, including one male and one female candidate. Each country can field up to two players in the men’s individual event. South Korea’s national go team was selected in April last year. The men’s team is made up of Shin Shin-seo, Park Jung-hwan and Byun Sang-il, Shin Min-joon, Kim Myung-hoon and Lee Ji-hyun, who qualified automatically through ranking seeds. The women’s team will be represented by the reigning world champion Choi Jeong-jeong and the team of Oh Yoo-jin, Kim Chae-young and Kim Eun-ji.
Shin Shin-seo and Park Jung-hwan will compete in the two-player men’s individual event. Shin Shin-seo, ranked No. 1 in Korea, was an automatic selection, while Park Park-hwan, ranked No. 2, was selected from the six team players who competed in the tournament. It is arguably the best combination for Korea.
In a recent interview, Shin Shin-seo, who is going for a double Asian Games crown, exuded confidence. “As with any tournament, we will face stiff competition from the host nation, China. But I think we can do well in both the team and individual competitions,” he said. “The Asian Games is the only competition where you can wear the flag on your chest, so it will be more meaningful than any other competition. I hope to bring joy to many people by winning a gold medal.”
Park Jung-hwan, who will be attempting to win a double with Shin Shin-seo, has already won a double in Guangzhou in 2010. This time around, he will compete in the men’s individual and team events, bringing his total to four Asian Games gold medals. After beating Byun Sang-il to qualify for the individual event, Park said, “I think my role will be important as I am the only Korean with Asian Games experience. In the team event, China will be strong, but I’m not worried because our players are so strong.”
National team coach Mok Jin-seok said, “We are aiming to win all the events at the Hangzhou Asian Games, just like in Guangzhou 13 years ago. We are planning to adapt to the competition style by having two practice games a day with Chinese rules, and we will conduct step-by-step customised training,” said Mok Jin-seok, head coach of the national team, adding, “We will focus on helping the players shake off the pressure and perform to the best of their abilities.” The national team will move into the Jincheon National Athletes’ Village from 11 August to begin their gold medal preparation.
Hosts China, who are expected to contend for gold alongside South Korea, will be looking to erase the memory of their humiliating defeat at the hands of South Korea on home soil in 2010, where they finished with just three silver medals. The Chinese team was finalised last year but underwent a re-selection process after the Asian Games were postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was speculated that the General Administration of Sport had asked the Chinese Go Association to re-select the team, resulting in four new players joining Yang Dingxin and Li Qincheng at the re-selection in May, while Guo Zhihao, Li Xuanhao, Fan Tingyu and Tu Jiaxi were dropped.
China, humiliated by South Korea 13 years ago, is ready to go all out
However, it is doubtful that the re-selection campaign to bolster strength will be beneficial to the Chinese team. Gu Zhihao, who defeated Shin Shin-seo to win the Lanquer event in June, is out, as is Li Xuanhao, who will be battling for supremacy with Byun Sang-il in the final of the Chunlan event, and Ding Hao, the reigning LG event winner. China’s No. 1 player Qiu Jie was a late addition, but there are reports in China that Qiu Jie has been on a downward spiral lately, so it’s unclear if he will be able to add to the squad. In addition, the list of players for the individual competition, which was supposed to be announced by the end of June, has not yet been released, presumably because the card that will be used against Shin Shin-seo 9, who is considered the favourite to win the title, has not yet been decided.
China’s women’s team is also half empty. China’s women’s team was made up of four players – Wei Ziying, Li He, Wu Yiming and Wang Yibo. From last year’s selection, Wei Ziying and Li He were retained, while Lu Minquan and Zhou Hongyu were eliminated.
Japan, one of the three pillars of the Korean-Chinese-Japanese Go Triad, also confirmed its selection. The men’s team will feature a host of domestic title holders, including Ryo Ichiriki, Toramaru Shibano, Yuta Iyama, Kotaro Seki and Atsushi Sada. The women’s representatives are Rina Fujisawa, Asami Ueno and Risa Ueno. Chinese Taipei, a dark horse with a recent surge in quality, has assembled a strong line-up that includes domestic powerhouses such as Hsiao-Hsiao Hung, Wang Yuan-Jun, Lin Jinyen, Lai Zhen-Fu, Chen Chi-Rui, and Hsieh Chia-Hsuan, as well as a number of Japanese study abroad students. The women’s team will include Hei Jia-ja, Lu Yu-hua, Yang Tzu-zen and Li Jia-hsin. Chinese Taipei will be hoping for at least a bronze medal in all three events.
Experts expect a close battle between South Korea and China in all three events, but also expect South Korea to bring home at least two gold medals. The men’s individual event, featuring current world number one Shin Shin-seo, and the women’s team event, featuring Choi Jeong-jeong, favour South Korea over China by a small margin. Of course, the men’s team event is also a strong favourite for China. The Hangzhou Asian Games Go Competition will be held from 24 September to 3 October at the China Origin International Exchange Centre in Hangzhou. Go fans are already looking forward to seeing if Korea will be able to break China’s dominance by winning all the events. 토토사이트순위