The Korean men’s volleyball team’s ‘gun’ Jeong Ji-seok boarded the plane to Hangzhou with the bronze medal from the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Challenge Cup 2023.
The team’s goal was to put the bitter experience of being swept by Bahrain in the semifinals of the tournament in July behind them.
The team’s fifth-place finish at the Asian Championships in August shows how desperate Jeong is to showcase Korea’s volleyball prowess at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
On Nov. 21, Jeong led South Korea to a 3-0 straight-sets victory over Cambodia in their Group C preliminary round match at the Linping Sports Center in Hangzhou, China.
After being benched the day before due to back pain, Jung was not at full strength, but he gritted his teeth and scored the most points for both teams (11).
“I’m very upset that we didn’t perform well at the AVC Challenge Cup and the Asian Championships,” said Jeong, who was interviewed after the game. “I brought the bronze medal back to the athletes’ village and hung it on the front door to remind myself every time I look at it.”
He said the loss to India the day before was compounded by his absence from the court.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced even with my own team. (The Asian Games were postponed for a year and we’re finally here,” he said, adding, “It was frustrating that I couldn’t just voice my desire.”
When asked what motivated him to fight through his injury, he immediately replied, “Because I’m a national team member.”
“Even though I took medicine this morning, (the pain) started to rise in the third set. I felt a little bit of pain when I bent my back to spike,” he said, but credited the good setters for trusting me and setting me up well.
With the loss the day before, the team lost the top spot in their group and were unable to avoid a bad draw. However, the players’ sense of purpose hasn’t changed.
“We were told that if we beat Cambodia, we would have to beat Pakistan, Qatar, and Iran (according to the bracket odds),” says Jeong, “so we said to each other, ‘It’s good. These are the opponents we need to beat to win the gold medal anyway,'” he said.
Veteran setter Han also emphasized confidence.
“The first set was tough today, but if the players believe in themselves a little more, they will play better,” Han said. “That’s the most important thing because a small difference in the moment can make the difference between a point and a mistake.”
After the previous day’s match, he told his juniors, “I thought it was going to be tough, but it’s just here now. We can do it no matter what, so don’t worry and believe in each other,” he said. 토토