Indonesia 2018: Howon Jeong’s high hopes

Paralympic champion wants to rebound from Worlds woe 04 Sep 2018 By EJ Monica Kim | For the IPC

South Korea’s Howon Jeong is shifting his focus toward October’s Asian Para Games after a heart breaking loss at August’s Boccia World Championships in Liverpool, Great Britain.

In the contest for the BC3 world title, the reigning Paralympic champion threw away a commanding lead against Greece’s Greg Polychronidis, eventually losing out 6-5.

“I tried to stay focused on my own performance until the end through mind-control, but I failed to get it over,” explained Jeong who had to settle for silver.

He beat Polychronidis for Paralympic gold at Rio 2016, but the tables were turned at Liverpool 2018.

While Polychronidis cheered in celebration, Jeong was on the other end wiping away tears. He is taking lessons away from that experience and targeting two golds in both individual and pairs BC3 events at the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“I’ve never been disappointed that much at the time when I missed a gold medal at Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games,” he said.

Four years ago, his fellow Korean Jun-Yup Kim won gold over Jeong in the final (4-3) in front of home fans.

“Afterwards, I had a difficult time, but I could overcome that period as I had great faith in myself,” Jeong said. “I wanted to prove that I’m the best.”

Building a new chemistry

The 2018 Worlds was an opportunity for Jeong to see how he could perform with his new coach Mun Young Lee.

Jeong began training with Lee after his most successful season in 2016, which the 32-year-old credits to former coach Cheol-Hyun Kwon. When financial difficulties forced him to leave the sport in 2002, Kwon helped him return in 2005.

Their boccia partnership ended with the first individual Paralympic gold, because Kwon was no longer able to continue the sport with Jeong for personal reasons.

“As this World Championships was the first competition that Lee and I worked together, I realised that our teamwork needs to be refined more,” Jeong “But we are getting better and better, so I believe that gradually we will show our improved performance.”

Not only did Jeong change coaches, but he was also out for nearly two years due to injury. Liverpool 2018 was his first major competition since Rio.

“I sustained backache suddenly at the end of 2016. The pain got worse, so I was not able to compete, but just focused on recovery,” he said.

Defending his title

The Paralympic veteran is also targeting his fourth Games at Tokyo 2020 and is confident about defending his title.

“When I think about Tokyo 2020, I’m neither nervous nor afraid. I’m very calm now, and will be calm there too,” he said. “However, if I imagine listening to the national anthem on the top of the podium, I feel a thrill.”