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Son Yeon-jae gives S. Korea first gold in rhythmic gymnastics

October 2, 2014
Son Yeon-jae celebrates after winning her first Asian Games gold medal. (Yonhap)

Son Yeon-jae celebrates after winning her first Asian Games gold medal. (Yonhap)

By Kwon Ji-youn

INCHEON ― South Korea’s rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae wrote history, Thursday, claiming her country’s first-ever Asiad gold in the individual all-around event.

The 20-year-old finished first with an aggregated score of 71.699 to win at the Namdong Gymnasium in Incheon, which was packed with Korean fans to support the celebrity-status gymnast.

She expressed satisfaction with her performance and thanked her fans.

“I think I did well. I did my best,” she said. “I thought I would not feel any different, but when the national flag was raised with the anthem playing, I remembered all the hard training I went through.”

Son Yeon-jae, center, makes a heart-shape with her arms after winning South Korea's first-ever Asiad gold in the individual all-around event at the Namdong Gymnasium in Incheon, Thursday. China's Deng Senyue, left, won the silver, while Anastasiya Serdyukova of Uzbekistan settled for bronze. (Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

Son Yeon-jae, center, makes a heart-shape with her arms after winning South Korea’s first-ever Asiad gold in the individual all-around event at the Namdong Gymnasium in Incheon, Thursday. China’s Deng Senyue, left, won the silver, while Anastasiya Serdyukova of Uzbekistan settled for bronze. (Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul)

In response to their cheering, Son staged almost flawless performances, outperforming rival Deng Senyue of China by 1.367 points, and shed tears as the Korean national anthem echoed through an almost-full stadium.

Son, who performed 7th, received scores exceeding the 18-point mark in three of the four disciplines.

She qualified for the finals in first place with 53.882 points, while her Chinese rival qualified second with 52.883 points. In the qualifier, the lowest score is dropped.

Deng maintained second rank in all disciplines for her silver-medal finish with 70.332 points, while Anastasiya Serdyukova of Uzbekistan claimed the bronze medal with 68.349 points.

Son broke ground with a striking performance in the clubs discipline, her most difficult program, earning 9.000 in difficulty and 9.100 in execution for a score of 18.100 with no penalties. This surpassed the 18.016 she had received in the qualifying round.

She then staged an excellent faultless performance in the ribbon event to earn 8.950 in difficulty and 9.133 in execution for 18.083 points, maintaining the lead after two events. She left the arena to enormous applause.

Son then proved dominant once more with a lively hoop performance, which received a difficulty score of 9.050 and an execution score of 9.166 for a total of 18.216.

But in her last event, Son missed the ball after a throw, and picked up 8.600 difficulty points and 8.700 execution points for a combined score of 17.300. Deng also fumbled the ball to earn 17.400, but had scored lower in the ribbon and hoop, earning 17.483 and 17.583 respectively. In the clubs, she collected 17.866 points.

Son’s fourth-place finish at the 2014 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Izmir, Turkey, was also affected by a mistake she made in the ball section. In Izmir, Son aggregated 70.933 to outperform Deng by just 1.167 points. She also became the first Asian to medal at the championships with a bronze in the hoop event.

Another South Korean gymnast Gim Yun-hee finished 9th with 63.666 points, bettering her 22nd-place finish at Guangzhou by 13 spots. Crowds cheered deafeningly as the 23-year-old walked off the stage after an impressive hoop performance to Arirang, a Korean folk song, which earned her 16.300 points. Gim also reaped 16.450 in the ball, 15.516 in the clubs and 15.400 in the ribbon.

Serdyukova and Djamila Rakhmatova both of Uzbekistan put on a close fight for third, with Serdyukova coming out the winner to bag bronze. Rakhmatova finished fourth with 67.799 points.

With her victory, Son avenged her bronze-medal finish at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, ending the countries worries of no big star athletes making a memorable impression in the event at home. Swimmer Park Tae-hwan, gymnast Yang Hak-seon and sharpshooter Jin Jong-oh failed to win individual golds at Incheon. Park was spotted in the audience at Son’s competition, Thursday.

 

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