Korea looks back on job well doneThe South Korean Olympic squad had a disappointing start to the 2004 Athens Olympics, but thanks to its traditional strongholds, such as archery and taekwondo, it managed to place ninth in the total medal count.
Korea won nine gold, 12 silver and nine bronze medals, an impressive result, even if the team did fall short of its goal of winning 13 gold medals.
The last gold medal, won in taekwondo won by Moon Dae-sung in the men’s over 80-kilogram category, on Sunday bumped Korea three notches up in the standings, ahead of Great Britain.
Moon, the 1999 world champion, defeated Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece, overcoming the deafening cheers from the home crowd. Two minutes 10 seconds into the match, Moon let fly with a spinning-hook left-kick that landed on the opponent’s head, knocking him out.
The Games might have ended, but there’s still some unfinished business. Korean Olympic officials are waiting on the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Switzerland to decide whether a judging error warrants awarding Yang Tae-young a gold medal in the men’s all-around competition in gymnastics. The request for a re-examination was filed by the Korean team on Saturday.
The International Gymnastics Federation has suspended the three judges involved but has said it would not change the results.
A positive note for Korea is that the country won medals from more categories this time. In Sydney in 2000, Korea won eight golds in four sports, but this time it won nine golds from six sports.
Korean athletes did better than expected in boxing, shooting, weightlifting, handball and table tennis. The team also won the most silvers ever in its Olympic history.
Track and field and swimming weren’t Korea’s strong spots. Nam Yoo-sun, however, made it to the women’s 400-meter individual medley final, becoming the first Korean to compete in a swimming final.
All other athletes were weeded out in the preliminaries. This was a poor showing compared to Japan, which won three gold medals in swimming, and China, which had two gold medals in track and field, including one in men’s 110-meter hurdles.
The head of the Korean Olympics squad expressed optimism for the Beijing Games.
“Korean athletes showed potential in boxing, shooting and weightlifting,” B. J. Shin said. “The Korean soccer team made it to the quarterfinals, and the Korean women’s handball team played neck and neck with Denmark in the final, a country where 60 professional handball teams are in operation. Korea has only four professional teams,” he said.
Creative training and more government aid might make the difference in 2008, Mr. Shin said.
“It is impressive that Korea made it to a swimming final and beat China in men’s table tennis, but in taekwondo, Korea’s traditional stronghold, we realized that we need to develop new techniques,” he said.
“Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I believe that the government should go ahead with drastic increases in investment (in amateur sports),” he said.
by Sung Baik-you, Limb Jae-un