Unforgettable OlympicsNo matter how many times we see it, we will never tire of the victory scene - Park Tae-hwan was in fourth place until the 50-meter point, when he began to take the lead in the race. He continued to extend his lead from the 200-meter mark to the finish line, swimming as if he were a dolphin or a torpedo. Park Tae-hwan grabbed the first Olympic swimming medal for his country by winning a dramatic gold in the men’s 400-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympic Games yesterday. The joyous shouts of people watching him win the competition on TV demonstrates the great admiration for Park. Some may ask: “How could a Korean win a gold medal in swimming?”
Swimming, as well as running, is one of the major sports with numerous medals and world competitions.
Over the years, Korea has produced some legendary marathon runners. Swimming, however, was the uncontested domain of Westerners. It was especially the turf of those with long legs and arms, and those who benefit from high-tech training. Today, Korea doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone.
In making Olympic history for Korea and in delighting his nation, Park Tae-hwan benefited from the latest scientific training co-developed and implemented by Roh Min-sang, a director of Korea’s swimming team, and Song Hong-sun, a researcher at the Korea Sports Science Institute who majored in exercise physiology.
Park’s success is the result of a combination of endeavors: his natural gifts, his endurance and discipline, years of hard work, science and coaching.
In 1964 a Korean participated in Olympic swimming for the first time. After 44 years, Park won a medal for Korea for the first time. He began swimming at age 7, after his parents told him it would help with his asthma. He is now a 18-year-old young man. He said, “There are still two more events left. I am in good spirits. I am dying for another gold medal.” The 200 meter and the 1,500 freestyle events await. But no matter what happens from here on out, Park has already made history.
And it’s not just about Park. What pleases us most in the Olympics is to watch Korean athletes compete with poise and dignity, grace and effort. Choi Min-ho won a gold medal in judo over Ludwig Paischer of Austria in the men’s 60-kilogram Saturday. An emotional Choi wept afterward, and it was hard not to weep with him.
Later, the Korean women’s archery team won gold in a dramatic final over China. It is our sincere hope that Korea’s national flag will continue to be hoisted and its athletes will win medals, and hear the nation’s anthem played again. We also hope the Beijing Olympics are peaceful, free from scandal and threats of terrorism.