SEOUL - The young star player HaengJik Kim was in his years as a junior has now made the big step to the international top. The 23-year-old Korean won in Seoul the Asian three-cushion championship for seniors in a tournament where all famous players from Korea, Vietnam and Japan took a shot at the title.
HaengJik Kim finished in this field as the glorious winner after the three-days battle. Thereby he took his first major championship as a senior after his four junior world titles. In the final he defeated his compatriot Chi-Yeon Cho 40-29 in 24 innings.
These two Koreans remained for the final match from a 32 players starting field, including world class players like Sung-Won Choi, Jae Ho Cho, Kyung-Roul Kim, Jung Han Heo, Dong Koong Kang, Quyet Chien Tran, Quoc Nguyen Nguyen, Xuan Cuong Ma and Choong-Bok Lee.
The world champion, Sung-Won Choi, has to share his first place on the world ranking with Eddy Merckx now, because of his early elimination in Seoul. Kyung-Roul Kim, also out in the first round, dropped out of the top twelve. Haeng Jik Kim earned eighty points with the title for the world ranking. He was the number 263 so far with ten points (World Cup in Guri and national championship) and rises to the 32nd place.
Haeng Jik Kim's return to the international stage is fabulous. The young guy suffered a brain stroke last year, that forced him to recover for months. His career was in serious danger, but eventually the most promising layer ever in three-cushion could make his come-back.
The young Korean (who explains that maybe in Korea he is 24 and in Europe 23) already had a long reputation in the world of three-cushion. He made his name and fame as a junior with a first world title on his fifteenth year (Los Alcazares, Spain), three years later, 2010, he was again the world's strongest in Hoogeveen (Netherlands), in 2011 in Guatemala and in 2012 in the Spanish San Javier with a record average of 1.639.
This Asian championship showed his immense talent and marks the final return to the top. He started his series of victories against one of the top favorites, Dong Koong Kang (40-27 in 16), then defeated the Japanese Takehiro Onodera (40-31 in 20), the Vietnamese Nguyen Duy Trun (40-33 in 27), in the semifinals Choong-Bok Lee (40-29 in 29), and finally in the decisive title match his last opponent, the 41-year-old Korean Chi-Yeon Cho, whom he left behind from the fifteenth inning with a run of seven (28-17) and then defeated 40-29.
The other finalist Chi-Yeon Cho is one of the new stars of Korean billiards, although he is part of the older generation, but started playing and practicing with a huge ambition some yars ago. Chi-Yeon sold his billiard saloon with fourteen tables in Seoul and now is practicing five days a week, eight hours per day.
He was the number two ranked player in his country last year after Jung Han Heo, but couldn't shin at the World championship in his country, where he was defeated in the first round by Sameh Sidhom and Tayfun Tasdemir.
HaengJik Kim on top of the podium with Chi-Yeon Cho (left) and Choong-Bok Lee.
The question that's coming up now is whether HaengJik Kim will start playing World Cups now with the Asian title. He didn't show up in Hurghada and didn't plan to play in the Luxor World Cup. HaengJik can't allow himself the travel costs to the World Cups and the Korean federation doesn't pay the young talents for participations. Maybe the Asian title can change this bad situation for the better.
Haeng Jik wants to play all the World Cups this year, starting in Luxor. ,,I hope for a wildcard from the Asian federation now I won this title’’, he said after the tournament in the Seoul hotel where he joined the closing dinner after the final and all the television interviews. ,,I'm going back home with my brother Tae Kwan Kim now. He played in the World Cup in Guri in the first round against Semih Sayginer.’’
HaengJik: ,,I have enjoyed the congratulations of the players and everyone here very much after my victory. That gives me a wonderful feeling. I was very nervous for the final, but I've had a bit of luck to win...’’