Olympics are talent, hard work and luck

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Olympics are talent, hard work and luck

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Many people have been spending sleepless nights lately, and not just because of tropical nights. The London Olympic Games are under way ... eight hours ahead of Korea.

The events in which Korean athletes compete are usually scheduled at night, and it might be 3 a.m. by the time Park Tae-hwan’s swimming race or soccer match ends.

That makes for a short sleep and a long, tired workday.

Some people just stay near their offices and spend the night at the 24-hour jjimjilbang to watch the games live, catch some sleep and go straight to work.

People get crazy over the Olympics because it is the largest international sporting competition and held only every four years. Each athlete is the hero of his or her own drama. About 10,000 of the seven billion people in the world compete for national honor and personal pride.

Korea’s women’s archery team competed in the rain and will bring home the country’s seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event. Jin Jong-oh won the 10-meter air pistol gold medal. Cho Jun-ho won the bronze in 66-kilogram judo, overcoming a controversial decision against him.

The drama of losing is no less riveting. Foil fencer Nam Hyun-hee was defeated in the last second and epee fencer Shin A-lam lost a match because of a malfunctioning clock.

All these dramas play out against the backdrop of intense pressure. Once athletes qualify to compete in the Olympics, their goal is to do their absolute best and give their all, leaving nothing on the table.

In a fairer world, years of hard work would determine the winners and losers. But in the real world, a slight cough, mental slip or bad ruling can trump preparation. The color of medal can depend on good night's sleep.

The glory of a gold medal is not only the just reward for talent and effort. You have to be lucky, too.

Getting puffed up and believing that your own talent and skill earned the gold medal is as foolhardy as crediting Kim Jong-un.

Each of us has a limited capacity for achievement. At the Olympics, more than individual ability and determination is required to win the gold.

Japanese writer Hiroyuki Itsuki calls it “external force.”

As I grow older, I increasingly believe that there is more to life than our own contributions. We must continue to do our best all the time, but it would be wise to understand the important role of powers outside our control.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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