A new Olympics powerhouseThere’s no wall that our young athletes can’t climb. Mo Tae-bum, who is just 21 years old, won Korea’s first ever Winter Olympics gold medal outside short track. The 500-meter event that he competed in is speed skating’s equivalent to the 100-meter dash in track. Mo, it can be said, is now the world’s fastest man on ice. At the same time, 22-year-old Lee Seung-hoon became the first Asian to win a medal in the 5,000-meter race, grabbing silver. The smaller Korean skaters dominated their bigger and stronger competitors from the West. Korea already has a gold medal in short-track speed skating - its traditional gold mine - at the Games and is now at the top of the speed skating tier.
The success of Mo and Lee overlap with the previous achievements of other young Korean athletes, such as Kim Yu-na and Park Tae-hwan. At the Beijing Olympics two years ago, Park accomplished an unprecedented feat, winning Korea’s first Olympic gold medal in swimming. Now the world is holding its collective breath to see how figure skating queen Kim will do.
Korea picked up six gold medals at the Turin Winter Olympics four years ago, but all of them were in short track events. China and Japan ranked behind Korea in the medal standings, but they won gold in downhill skiing and figure skating, respectively. The two gold medals Korea won at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games were also in short track.
The accomplishments of Mo and Lee, who hadn’t been considered clear-cut gold medal favorites before the start of the Games, have turned our hopes and expectations into a reality.
After winning gold on his birthday, Mo said in a press conference that he’d given himself the greatest birthday gift of his life. We can get a glimpse into the bright future of this country from his unbridled joy. The Korean bid committee is now working hard in Vancouver to gain support for its push to have Pyeongchang host the Winter Olympics in 2018. Here’s hoping that Korea further establishes itself as a legitimate Winter Olympics powerhouse and succeeds in the bidding war.