Korea's Darling, Kang Cho-hyun

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Korea's Darling, Kang Cho-hyun

Kang Cho-hyun narrowly missed the first gold of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and suddenly shot out of obscurity. Kang, 17, was leading the women's 10m air rifle final when American Nancy Johnson took over and outscored Kang by a mere 0.2 points to claim victory.

Kang walked away with the silver and gained notoriety as Sydney's Cinderella from an otherwise obscure event.

Support for Kang, whose father died last May, has been tremendous since her story broke Korean headlines. She now has a loyal fan club. Entertainment agencies are proposing giving Kang a monthly stipend of 1 million won until she graduates college.

In two short days, Kang's life has taken a turn, one that the high school student "still can't believe."

On Sept. 18, "Joongang Ilbo" reporters Lee Eun-chul and Im Young-sub caught up with the young star at the Shooting Centre.

Joongang Ilbo (JOINS): What's your take on the "Kang Cho Hyun syndrome" that has infected all of Korea?

Kang Cho Hyun (KC): I still can't believe I'm that famous. Just yesterday three major broadcasting companies wanted an interview. But fame is a momentary spell.

JOINS: Did you know Nancy Johnson scored 9.9 for her final shot?

KC: I wasn't aware of anything outside my game. Once I fired my last shot, I thought for sure I'd lost my chance to win gold.

JOINS: Your last shot seemed to come too late.

KC: I fired once, and missed the bull's eye. I tried one more time and was lucky to score over 9.9.

JOINS: It's rumored that Lee Eun-chul has taken you under his wings as his little sister.

KC: Eun-chul "Oppa" (older brother) came up with the idea before the July Atlanta World Cup. He was key to my winning the silver. He takes care of me.

(Kang answers a call from Lee "Oppa." He tells her he lost the men's 10m air rifle competition, and her face darkens.)

When asked what she wants to be in the future, she immediately responds: "A physical education teacher."

JOINS: Your father's death, last May, has probably been on your mind.

KC: Before I came to Sydney, I went to my father's grave in Taejun National Cemetary, and asked him to help me.

Of all the people in this world, I respect father the most. I used to piggy back him everywhere because he had no legs. He was never ashamed, and neither was I. I wish he was alive and could see me now.

by Jung Young-jae

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