Asian Para Games: Unified Korean Team Makes History

(ATR) China dominating the third edition of the event in Jakarta.

(ATR For the first time ever a Unified Korean team wins a medal at an international sports event for the disabled.

The joint Korean team won the bronze medal in a men's swimming relay at the Asian Para Games in Jakarta on Monday.

The results of the race were marked by some controversy.

The Korean team finished third in the 400m freestyle relay at Gelora Bung Karno Aquatic Center in Jakarta after China and Japan. But after the race, the judges disqualified Japan for a false start and were poised to give silver to the Korean team.

However, following Japan's appeal, the judges overturned their initial decision, causing the Korean team to file a complaint. The organizers later decided to postpone the medal ceremony until they made a final decision.

According to Joint Press Corps-Yonhap, although the unified Korean team was eventually awarded bronze, there were still issues to be resolved.

The Asian Para Games organizers said that only South Korean para swimmers would be able to stand on the podium during the medal ceremony since they were the athletes who competed in both the qualification and final rounds, according to the Korean Paralympic Committee (KPC).

The unified Korean team comprises four South Koreans and three North Koreans. For the qualification round, two South Koreans and two North Koreans competed together, but for the finals, only South Koreans hit the pool.

The organizers said that those who competed only in the qualification round would have to receive their medals through their team leaders.

Neither the North Koreans nor the South Koreans were happy with the organizers' decision.

The two Koreas are joining forces for the first time in their para sports history at the Asian Para Games.

They also participated in a joint parade at the opening ceremony and run Team Korea House together.

This is the third time that Korea has come together at the opening of a sporting event this year. Previously they did the same during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games.

During this Asian Para Games the two Koreas formed joint teams in the men's table tennis team competition and the men's freestyle relay and mixed relay swimming events.

In another event marked by controversy, Indonesian visually impaired judoka Miftahul Jannah was not allowed to compete on Monday, after she refused to take off her hijab, a head cover which is prohibited from being worn during competition according to the International Judo Federation (IJF).

President of the Indonesian National Paralympic Committee (NPC) Senny Marbun said the incident occurred because of the NPC’s negligence.

According to press reports, he said during a press conference on Monday that the judo coach appointed by the NPC was unaware of the rule because his English was poor.

China Dominates the Medals Table

Defending champion China is without a doubt the country to beat at the 2018 Asian Para Games.

After four days, China totals 142 medals, with 78 gold. South Korea follows with 57 medals, including 24 gold. North Korea has not yet won any medals.

The third Asian Para Games have 512 events in 18 sports. Sixteen events, however, are not medal events because of the limited number of participants. An event is considered a medal event if it is contested by at least four athletes from two countries.

Japan have the largest contingent with 303 athletes, followed by Indonesia with 295 and Thailand with 237. China sent 232 athletes to Jakarta. Athletes from 43 nations are taking part.

The Indonesian authorities had provided 5,000 free tickets daily for people with disabilities. The free tickets were expected to boost interest in the event so people with disabilities could be inspired and also experience a sports event.

Around 300 volunteers have also been provided to help out during the sporting event. These volunteers have been trained with specific skills to assist people with disabilities as well as other spectators.

The Asian Para Games comprises 19 venues across the capital. A total of 2,800 athletes and 1,800 officials are participating in the multisport event.

The Games will end on October 13.

Reported by Miguel Hernandez.