Kim Young-Gun not focusing on home advantage in Incheon

South Korea’s para-table tennis star Kim Young-Gun is fully focused on claiming his first Asian Para Games title and has earmarked who he feels will be his closest rival. 11 Oct 2014
Kim Young-Gun
Kim Young-Gun
By Devon Robertson

“It will either be an advantage or burden to me at the same time. I'll try not to think about it”

South Korea’s two-time para-table tennis Paralympic champion Kim Young-Gun is not focusing on home advantage at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games in South Korea, between 18-24 October.

Young-Gun first introduced himself to the international scene at just 16-years-old, before going on to win double gold in the class 3 category atAthens 2004. This was followed by a world title in 2010, before further gold at London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The 29-year-old has won almost everything there is to win in para-table tennis, except the Asian Para Games title – a record he is looking to change in Incheon.

However, despite having home advantage, Young-Gun worries it could be a hindrance and is instead, fully focused on the task at hand.

“It will either be an advantage or burden to me at the same time. I'll try not to think about it,” he said.

“I’ve practiced so hard and my condition has been good so far. I believe I could achieve a strong result.”

At the first Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, China, in 2010, Kim came close with a silver medal in both the singles and team events.

Almost 10 years after being named the Best Asia/South Pacific Player of the Year, Young-Gun has risen to become ranked No.1 in the world and is now ready to prove his might by going one step further and claiming gold in Incheon.

But he knows competition will be tough, and has earmarked the man that he beat in the London 2012 final as the biggest rival to his title challenge and has been visualising facing his potential opponent.

“Mostly, I care about Zhang Yan of China among [all of the] foreign players,” he said.

“I often do image training against my competitors before the start of a big game.”

The pair have clashed many times in the past, with the Korean coming out on top when it matters most, also beating 47-year-old Yan on his way to gold at the 2013 Asian Championships in Beijing, China.

At the recent 2014 ITTF Para-Table Tennis World Championships, also in Beijing, Young-Gun won bronze after he fell short of the title with defeat by eventual gold medallist, Turkey’s Nesim Turan.

He did, however, take home gold in the men’s class 4 team event as he, Choi Il Sang and Kim Jung-Gil beat Poland in the final.

And victory in Incheon would mark a successful year for Young-Gun, but he has stated that his focus following the Asian Para Games will quickly switch to the next Paralympic Games.

“After the Asian Para Games, I want to have a strong result in Rio 2016,” he said.

The Asian Para Games will feature 603 medal events across 23 sports.