With record behind them, sprinters look to better times

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With record behind them, sprinters look to better times

With a 31-year-old record left in the dust, those involved in Korean track and field are optimistic about the road that lies ahead.

For years, Korean sprinters and athletics officials alike had been heavily criticized for their failure to break the 10.34-second Korean record in the 100-meter sprint set by Seo Mal-ku at the 1979 Mexico Universiade.

All that changed when Kim Gook-young set a new Korean record in the preliminary heat at the National Athletics Meet in Daegu on Monday - and then went on to break that with 10.23 seconds in the semifinals.

“We had trouble seeing a way out of this situation in the past, but we can finally see some positive signs,” said Jang Jae-geun, a national track team technical committee member. “We only have one way to go from here, and that’s to move forward.”

Jang’s optimism is understandable: Seo’s record was broken four times in Daegu. While Kim Gook-young set the record twice, his peers did not sit idly by, but instead produced solid times of their own. Lim Hee-nam and Yeo Ho-suah sprinted across the finish line at 10.32 and 10.33 seconds, respectively. When Kim raced ahead of the pack in the semifinals, it pushed Lim and Yeo to their personal best times as well.

“All it takes is for one sprinter to break the record, and the others will naturally improve their time,” Lim said.

As of now, four sprinters on the national track team, including Chun Deok-young, are competing for the title of Korea’s fastest man. The four train together at the National Training Center in Taeneung, northern Seoul. While they’re competitors on the track, they’ve been able to push each other through friendly rivalry.

“I was only able to set the new record because the older members helped me out,” said Kim about the team’s positive morale.

Those in Korean athletics expect the latest record to serve as the foundation for Korean sprinters to compete on the international level. Considering the new record shaved .11 second from Korea’s previous best time, it’s not too much to expect that this too will be broken within the year.

“I’ll gradually work to reduce the record time,” said Kim.

In hot pursuit of Kim’s record will be his three teammates.

“If we work together as one, it’s not a stretch to expect a time of 10 seconds flat,” said the former record holder, Seo.

By Kim Woo-chul [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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