Thrilling buzzer beater kick! From ‘Super Rookie’ to ‘Ace’, Men’s 58kg Zhang Jun Wins ‘First Gold’ in Taekwondo Competition

It was an ace.

Jang Jun (23-Korea Gas Corp.) struck gold. Jang defeated Iran’s Mahdi Hajimosaeinapoti in the men’s 58-kilogram final of the taekwondo competition at the Hangzhou Asian Games at the Lin’an Sports and Cultural Exhibition Center in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on Friday with a round robin score of 2-0 (5-4 4-4). It was his first Asian Games gold medal. After Kang Wan-jin and Cha Ye-eun won a team gold in poomsae the previous day, Jang won his first gold medal in karate. With three gold medals in two days, taekwondo is looking like a filial sport.

In fact, Korean taekwondo has been struggling. The sport suffered its first ever “no gold” at the Tokyo Olympics. It was also “no gold” at the Paris World Grand Prix earlier this month. The team, which used the Paris World Grand Prix as a precursor to the Asian Games, was devastated. It was important to break the “no-gold” trend. If the dark period was prolonged, the aftermath could be felt until the Paris Olympics. The role of an ‘ace’ was crucial. In the absence of a ‘super ace’ like Lee Dae-hoon (retired), the ‘reliable man’ was Jang Jun. Jang lived up to the hype with a flawless gold medal.

Zhang Jun defeated Sri Lanka’s Shalinda Liyanaji in the round of 16 and Chinese Taipei’s Wang Yu-hsiang in the quarterfinals, both with round-robin scores of 2-0. In the quarterfinals, she defeated Mohsen Rezai of Afghanistan 2-0 (7-5 14-12). The match was tightly contested, with the score tied at 4-4 for a while, but Zhang Jun took the first round with a spinning back kick to the body. At the start of the second round, it looked like he was going to lose this round as he was down 0-5 after allowing back-to-back body and head strikes. Down 1-10, Zhang Jun’s toes flashed. With a fiery onslaught, he unleashed a flurry of strikes that brought Geary back to 13-12 with 1:10 left in the second round.

The long-awaited final was a back-and-forth affair. Zhang Jun unleashed a barrage of first-round body shots to take Gear down. He was initially disallowed a point, but a video review ruled the attack to the face, giving him a 4-1 lead. After taking a 5-1 lead, Zhang Jun was caught with a facial attack, but managed to hold on for a 5-4 victory. In the second round, Hajimusaelnaputhi allowed a three-point attack and was taken down. With no escape in sight, Zhang Jun used a spinning back kick to push his opponent out of range. With five seconds left, Zhang Jun’s spinning kick went into his opponent’s head. A fateful video review followed. The head attack was recognized and three points were awarded, tying the game at 4-4. His opponent was then warned for falling and the gold medal was sealed. An ‘ace’ move, a thrilling reversal that saved Korean Taekwondo’s pride.

Zhang Jun was a “super rookie. He started playing sports in the fourth grade at the urging of his father, who introduced him to taekwondo through his father’s futsal club. Torn between his studies and athletics, Zhang Jun’s life changed when he won his first national championship in his third year of middle school. He went on to win the boys’ national championship and became the best player in his age group.

After moving on to Hongseong High School, he was selected to the junior national team, where he won the Junior World Championships and Junior Asian Championships, and made a name for himself in the selection process for the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. He battled it out with Incheon Asian Games gold medalist and world No. 1 Kim Tae-hoon. Although he failed to make the national team, ‘Super Rookie’ got off to a great start.

The Super Rookie’s momentum was huge. In 2018, he was called up to the national team for the first time and made waves by winning back-to-back titles at the Asian Championships and the second edition of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix. At the World Taekwondo Grand Prix, he became the youngest Korean athlete ever to win the title. He was also named the World Taekwondo Federation’s Male Athlete of the Year after winning the World Championships and reaching the top of the world rankings.

Jang Joon was on the rise as the heir apparent to the legendary Lee Dae-hoon, but then came his first real test in taekwondo. It was the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. He was considered a strong favorite to win, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to compete and only won a bronze medal. Weighed down by the expectations around him, Zhang Jun was upset in the semifinals by the unknown Mohamed Khalil Zendoubi (Tunisia). To make matters worse, he was overtaken by a formidable group of up-and-comers. At the Hangzhou Asian Games in April last year, he battled Park Tae-joon (Kyunghee University) and Bae Joon-seo (Ganghwa Guncheong) in a close rematch before finally earning a Taeguk mark.

Jang Jun seemed to be able to relax after the pressure of the competition. It was a lesson learned from the Tokyo Olympics, where he was unable to perform under pressure. After winning gold at the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) World Grand Prix 2022 Final in December last year, Zhang Jun continued his momentum with a gold medal at the Asian Games. 스포츠토토

Now, Zhang Jun’s eyes are set on the Paris Olympics. The Asian Games were a crucial step for Zhang, who is hoping to win Olympic gold. Jang is currently ranked No. 3 in the world in the men’s 58-kilogram category, the highest among Korean athletes. However, with his ‘rival’ Park Tae-joon ranked fourth and Bae Jun-seo sixth, he is no longer guaranteed a spot in Paris. Jang lost back-to-back games to Bae at the national selection trials in February to earn a spot at the World Championships, which Bae went on to win. After a potentially shaky start, Zhang Jun was crowned Asian Games champion, adding to his confidence heading into Paris.

The ‘Super Rookie’ has clearly established himself as an ‘ace’ at the top of the Asian Games. Now, Zhang Jun is dreaming of being crowned Super Ace at the Olympics.

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