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Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae honored as S. Korea’s top amateur athlete

February 24, 2015
Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae speaks after winning the prize at the annual Coca-Cola Sports Award at a hotel in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae speaks after winning the prize at the annual Coca-Cola Sports Award at a hotel in downtown Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae was honored on Tuesday as South Korea’s top amateur athlete of 2014.

Son, one of the country’s most visible athletes, was named Athlete of the Year at the annual Coca-Cola Sports Awards, which has been honoring amateur athletes since 1995.

Last fall, Son became the first South Korean to win an Asian Games gold in rhythmic gymnastics, taking the individual all-around title on home soil in Incheon. At the world championships held before the Asian Games, Son finished fourth, the best performance among all Asians.

In accepting the trophy, Son said she won’t dwell on her past accomplishments and will try to make more history.

“This is the last season before the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro, and I am trying to come up with a new program,” she said.

At her first Olympics three years ago in London, Son finished fifth in the individual all-around, the best-ever Olympic showing by a South Korean. She said her next goal is “to do better in Rio than I did in London.”

A slew of other gold medalists from the Asian Games were also recognized. Greco-Roman wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo, who took the men’s 75-kilogram title, and Lee Na-young, who swept up four gold medals in women’s bowling, were co-runners-up to Son in the individual athlete category.

Kim became only the third South Korean wrestler to win the following four major international titles: an Olympic gold, a world title, an Asian championship and an Asian Games gold medal.

Lee, in her first Asian Games, became only the fourth South Korean to win at least four gold medals at a single Asiad.

The men’s fencing team of Jung Jin-sun, Park Kyoung-doo, Park Sang-young and Kweon Young-jun, who won the Asiad gold for South Korea’s third straight title in the competition, received the Team of the Year award.

Kim Cheong-yong, who became the youngest South Korean shooter to win an Asian Games gold last fall at 17, was named Rookie of the Year, along with 16-year-old short track speed skater Choi Min-jeong, who swept up nine World Cup gold medals in her first senior season.

The awards ceremony on Tuesday was attended by previous winners and other trailblazing athletes, including former Olympic marathon champion Hwang Young-cho, Olympic weightlifting gold medalist Jang Mi-ran and Olympic gymnastics champ Yang Hak-seon.

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