Shim’s marvelous dashIt was an electrifying victory. Audiences watching the live coverage of the women’s short track speed skating 3,000-meter relay at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi couldn’t take their eyes off the screens on Tuesday. When the neck-and-neck race entered the final lap, Koreans held their breath to see if their team could accomplish a miracle before it was too late.
And they did. The moment the last Korean skater, 17-year-old Shim Suk-hee, swiftly overtook a Chinese skater at the finish line, all Koreans were in jubilation over the dramatic come-from-behind victory the four young female athletes achieved at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
The gold medal they received at the average age of 20 is not simply a symbol of victory. It is the greatest present they could offer to all the compatriots back home after all the tough training and hard work. The gold also reflects all the confidence and strength with which the Korean skaters overwhelmed their rivals.
Sports is similar to a comprehensive health report on a society’s past, present and future. In such a context, the Olympics are compared to a soundless war among countries. Despite the roaring tides of globalization around the globe, all countries promote nationalism and social unity under their own national flag. The final lap - and the last step - of Shim Suk-hee in the down-to-the-wire race drove out all the shadows from Korean society. It put us in glorious sunshine. And her courage and guts made all of us feel refreshed and rejuvenated. If each one of us could do just like she did, we all could say, “I am thrilled and happy,” just like she said after her victory.
As the Sochi Winter Games come to an end, we pay attention to the number of medals each country won. Team Korea has only won four medals so far, including two golds. But it has achieved even better results than before - plenty of human stories and anecdotes involving our athletes.
The Winter Games also exposed the shades of our sports, as clearly seen in the shameful rivalry and division of the Korea Skating Union, which cost Korea an excellent short track speed skater, Ahn Hyun-soo, also known as Viktor Ahn, who chose the path of naturalized citizenship of Russia. That is our loss and our shame.
As women’s speed skating 500-meter winner Lee Sang-hwa said, we need to prove our commitment to winning gold medals. It is high time for the older generation to help another Shim Suk-hee do well in the Pyeongchang Winter Games four years from now.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 20, Page 30