South Korea Secures Round of 16 Spot at ITTF World Team Championships with Victory Over IndiaKBO Prepares Umpires and Scorers for New Season Rules with Joint Training CampSouth Korean Skaters Kim Gil-li and Park Ji-won Win World Cup Overall Titles

SEOUL — South Korea's men's table tennis team clinched a place in the round of 16 at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Team Table Tennis Championships, following a 3-0 victory over India. The win was secured on Monday at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center in Busan, marking a flawless group stage performance by the host nation.

According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korea completed the group stage with a perfect 4-0 record, having previously secured victories against Poland, New Zealand, and Chile. The championships feature 40 nations each in the men's and women's events, divided into eight groups of five teams. Following round-robin play, the winners of each group advance to the round of 16, while the remaining eight slots are filled through round of 32 matches between the second and third seeds from the groups.

The team format allows each participating country to carry five players, of which only three are eligible to compete in each singles match. Matches consist of up to five singles games, adhering to a best-of-five format.

In the opening singles match against India, Jang Woo-jin secured a win against Harmeet Desai with scores of 11-4, 12-10, and 11-8. Jang's victory was particularly notable as he overcame a challenging moment in the second game, where he was behind 10-9 but managed to win three consecutive points to secure the game at 12-10. Jang reflected on his strategy against Desai, emphasizing his approach to service reception and defense against third-ball attacks.

Following Jang's match, Lim Jong-hoon defeated Sathiyan Gnanasekaran with a score of 3-0 (11-5, 11-7, 11-7), and Lee Sang-su overcame Sharath Kamal Achanta 3-1 (11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5). Lim shared his pre-match anxieties, highlighting the pressure of competing against a rising India and how he managed to find his rhythm during the match. Lee, on the other hand, expressed his anticipation for the challenges ahead in the knockout stage, underscoring the team's readiness for any opponent.

The South Korean women's team also advanced to the round of 16, following a 3-1 victory over Puerto Rico on Sunday. With wins in their first three matches and only one singles match lost, the women's team looked to close out the group stage strongly against Cuba on Monday night.

SEOUL — In anticipation of the 2024 baseball season, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) hosted a training camp last week for umpires and scorers to familiarize them with a set of new rules, including the implementation of an automated ball-strike system (ABS) and a pitch clock. The camp, held at Masan Stadium in Changwon, aimed to ensure that officials are well-prepared for the upcoming changes.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the training camp took place from Wednesday to Sunday, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. It featured exhibition games played by college and high school teams under the new rules on Thursday and Saturday. These games provided the umpires and official scorers their first live experience with the ABS and pitch clock in action. A seminar was also held on Wednesday to further educate the participants about the changes.

The ABS, often referred to as "robot umpire," utilizes tracking technology to determine balls and strikes, with the home plate umpire receiving the call through an earpiece. This system aims to enhance the accuracy of calls made during games. Although the pitch clock was proposed for the 2024 season, the KBO's board of directors, consisting of the presidents of the 10 clubs, decided in January to trial it during the first half of the season before making a decision on its full implementation in the latter half. The pitch clock, however, will be fully operational from the start in the Futures League, the minor league of the KBO.

Under the new rules, pitchers are required to deliver a pitch within 18 seconds when the bases are empty and within 23 seconds when runners are on base. The introduction of the pitch clock is expected to expedite game durations, a result observed in Major League Baseball (MLB) during its first year of implementation in 2023. The KBO reported that the average nine-inning game lasted three hours and 12 minutes in 2023, while in MLB, the duration was reduced to 2 hours and 40 minutes, over 20 minutes shorter than in 2022.

In addition to the camp, the KBO plans to send umpires and scorers to participate in scrimmages throughout spring training. This is part of a broader strategy to quickly acclimate officials to the new systems. Furthermore, league officials will conduct seminars for clubs during spring training visits to Japan and the United States, ensuring comprehensive preparation for the 2024 season.

SEOUL — South Korean short track speed skaters Kim Gil-li and Park Ji-won have been declared the overall champions of the 2023-2024 International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup season, each securing the prestigious ISU Crystal Globe in their respective categories.

According to Yonhap News Agency, 19-year-old Kim Gil-li topped the women's competition with 1,211 points after six events, concluding the season ahead of Kristen Santos-Griswold of the United States, who finished with 1,180 points. The season wrapped up at the Hala Olivia Arena in Gdansk, Poland, on Sunday (local time). This victory marks Kim's first Crystal Globe, with her performance including seven gold medals across the season, showcasing her dominance in the sport.

On the men's side, 27-year-old Park Ji-won captured the overall title with 1,071 points, narrowly edging out Steven Dubois of Canada by 19 points. Park's achievement in securing his second consecutive Crystal Globe highlights his continued excellence and strategic prowess on the ice, complemented by six World Cup gold medals this season.

The World Cup season allows skaters to accumulate points through their finishes in individual races, with a win earning 100 points, a second-place finish granting 80 points, and a third-place finish yielding 70 points, among other allocations. Kim and Park's strategies throughout the season have been characterized by consistent top finishes, enabling them to maintain their leads in the overall standings.

Kim's journey to the top was marked by a significant improvement from her fourth-place overall finish last season. She consistently won at least one gold medal in the first five World Cup events of this season, a streak that ended with a silver in the 1,000 meters at the season finale in Poland. Despite this, her accumulated points ensured her victory over Santos-Griswold.

Park Ji-won's path to his second Crystal Globe was equally compelling, with a decisive gold medal in the 1,000 meters during the final event in Poland cementing his overall win. His performance throughout the season, including a critical victory over his closest competitor, Dubois, in the concluding races, underscored his tactical skill and determination.

Both Kim and Park have expressed their joy and future ambitions following their victories, with Kim aiming for gold at the world championships and Park cherishing the retention of his title.

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