Good results bode well for Pyeongchang

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Good results bode well for Pyeongchang

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Korean medalists pose at an event for the national team at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, Sunday (Korean time). [NEWSIS]

Kim Yu-na and a group of young speed skaters highlighted a historical Winter Olympics in which Korea exceeded expectations to realize its best-ever finish, tying for fifth place in the gold medal tally in Vancouver.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games came to a conclusion with speed skater Mo Tae-bum carrying the Korean flag at the closing ceremony yesterday, Korean time. Korea sent a total of 46 athletes with the goal of at least five golds and a top-10 finish. And it exceeded that, with medals in all the skating events, including three golds from Mo, Lee Seung-hoon and Lee Sang-hwa in the speed skating events, one from Kim Yu-na in figure skating and two from Lee Jung-su in short-track speed skating.

“I am grateful to the athletes,” said Park Yong-sung, the president of Korean Olympic Committee, speaking to the Korean media earlier yesterday. “The efforts of our athletes and the results here in Vancouver will be a big boost to Pyeongchang’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

The strong finish is expected to pay big dividends for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic bid committee. As the top Asian nation at this year’s Winter Olympics, Korea now has a stronger case. According to media reports, President Lee Myung-bak has promised to boost support for winter sports and is strongly backing the 2018 bid, which is the county’s third consecutive bid after losing to Vancouver and Sochi.

The six gold medals is a repeat of the six golds from the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics but the total of 14 medals is an improvement over the previous best of 11, also in Turin.

In the past, Korea had failed to succeed outside the short-track speed skating events. Since winning its first gold medal at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games, Korea had won a total of 31 medals at the Winter Games - 29 of them in the short-track events, with one silver and one bronze in long-track speed skating events.

The medal total was more balanced this time around.

Kim Yu-na’s record-setting performance was impressive, but also notable was the emergence of other young athletes. A group of Korea National Sport University juniors earned the nation’s first gold medals in the long-track speed skating events. Mo Tae-bum and Lee Sang-hwa won the men’s and women’s 500-meter speed skating events, respectively, while Lee Seung-hoon took gold in the 10,000-meter event. Mo would add a silver in the 1,000-meter event while Lee Seung-hoon earned a silver in the 5,000-meters.

On the short-track, Lee Jung-su emerged as the ace of the men’s squad as he delivered gold medals in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events. With the silver medal in the 5,000-meter relay, Lee, along with biathlete Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway, became one of the most successful athletes, with two golds and one silver. Sung Si-bak added a silver in the 500-meter event for the men’s squad.

The women’s short-track team struggled as it went through a transitional period with young and inexperienced skaters. Three-time gold medalist at the 2006 Turin Winter Games Jin Sun-yu and Choi Eun-kyung failed to make the 2010 squad due to injuries. Lee Eun-byul won a silver in the 1,500-meter and Park Seung-hi managed to add two bronze medals in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter events, but the squad failed to win a single gold for the first time since the 1992 Games.

The medalists will be rewarded with 40 million won ($34,520) for gold, 20 million won for silver and 12 million won for bronze medals. In addition, International Olympic Committee official and former Samsung head Lee Kun-hee has offered to add 50 percent of the Korean Olympic Committee’s reward. The medalists will also be rewarded with a lifetime monthly pension of 1 million won for gold medalists and 450,000 won for the silver medalists.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]


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