Korea's First Gold Medalist in Fencing

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Korea's First Gold Medalist in Fencing

In a historic moment, Kim Young-ho defeated Ralf Bissdoff of Germany Wednesday night at the Summer Olympics men's foil championship match, winning Korea's first gold in fencing.

When Kim showed up the next day for an interview with "Joongang Ilbo," he was limping. "My muscles are still tense," Kim said. "It's hard to walk." His smile accompanied a slow speech style, thick with a Chungcheong province accent. He looked more like a friendly neighbor than an intensely ambitious athlete.

Joongang Ilbo (JOINS): Have you called home, yet?

Kim Young-ho (KY): My wife congratulated me. My mother in Noonsan city said, "Thank you." My three-year-old son, Dong-su, said, "Dad, you're the best. I miss you. Come home soon."

JOINS: What's the significance of this gold medal?

KY: I'm proud to have written a new chapter in Korean fencing history. The match was broadcast live on television, adding a drama-like element. I expect the popularity of this sport to go up.

JOINS: In the final round, the score went from 14-11 to 14-14. How did you feel as your opponent caught up?

KY: I wanted to finish the match quickly, and that's where I messed up. It was a mistake to attack when I was up 14-13. When Bissdoff counter-attacked, I lost focus. At the last moment, I lunged but he hit me and scored.

JOINS: Weren't you thinking of giving up fencing at some point?

KY: In my fourth and last match of the men's 1998 World Fencing Championship, victory seemed certain. Somehow my French opponent defeated me. I decided not to take up the sword again, but I also wanted to settle the score. Eventually I started training.

JOINS: What are your future plans?

KY: I was going to retire if I won gold. But the people close to me are urging me to try for the next Olympics.

JOINS: How has your wife, Kim Young-ah, who was once on the national fencing team, supported you?

KY: I'm lucky if I'm home four to five months out of a year. But she understands. We've been together for only 10 years, but when she looks in my eyes, she knows what I'm feeling. When I lose a match she gives me technical advice. I'm a lucky man to have her for a wife.

by Jung Young-jae

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