Jin Jong-oh makes Olympic history

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Jin Jong-oh makes Olympic history

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Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh takes aim during the final of the men’s 50-meter pistol event on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Before Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh left for Brazil, he had one goal; to leave his legacy on the world of shooting. Now, after winning the men’s 50-meter pistol event, the Korean marksman has left his mark not only on his sport but on the history of the Olympic Games.

For Jin, there are two moments from this year’s Games that will be ingrained in his memories for the rest of his life.

The first moment came on Saturday, when Jin, considered a surefire contender for gold, finished fifth in the men’s 10-meter air pistol event and failed to clinch a medal. As the defending champ from the 2012 London Olympics in the event, and the best shooter in the world in his prime, no one doubted Jin would be at the top of the podium. “I am sorry” is all Jin said after the event, before he stormed out of the Olympic Shooting Centre.

Then came the 50-meter pistol event on Wednesday, his main event. Already having suffered a heartbreaking loss few days earlier, Jin was not going to let this chance slip by. The 10-meter event was not his main event and although it was painful, he could still let it go. But if he missed the podium on Wednesday, it would have meant his opportunity to cement his legacy would be forever lost.

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During the qualification round, Jin shot 567 points to advance to the final. In the final, which was in the form of a sudden-death round, eight shooters were given 20 bullets and starting from the sixth bullet, the shooter with the least amount of points would be eliminated. No one suspected Jin would shoot poorly, but he scored a 6.6 out of a perfect 10.9 with his ninth shot, a potentially fatal score.

But unexpectedly, this provoked the fighting spirit of the 36-year-old veteran, who would stay on and ultimately set a new Olympic record of 193.7 points to claim gold.

As Jin fired his gun, he looked as if he was in a trance.

“That 6.6 made me really focus more than anything else,” Jin later said. He climbed back up in the standings and, with two shots remaining, cut the deficit between himself and Vietnam’s Hoang Xuan Vinh to 0.2 points. Xuan Vinh had overcome all the odds in the 10-meter air pistol event on Saturday to claim the first Olympic gold that Vietnam has ever won in its history. With his 19th shot, Jin shot a 10.0 while Xuan Vinh shot 8.5, finally taking the top spot. He added 10.3 more points with his final bullet and took the podium with a new Olympic record, 2.3 points ahead of Xuan Vinh, who claimed silver. North Korea’s Kim Song-guk, meanwhile, took bronze for the country’s third medal at this year’s Games.

What was noteworthy about Jin’s run from potential elimination to setting a new Olympic record was the level of Jin’s concentration, which was evident on his face towards the end of the event as his eyes were dead set on the target.

Jin is known for keeping a strict routine before a big event like the Olympics, and this year was no exception. He stays away from watching the television so as not to wear out his eyes, he always stomps his feet several times before taking his stance and he always takes aim at the target without a gun before the competition begins.

After taking his third gold medal in the 50-meter pistol, Jin became not only the first shooter in the world to take three consecutive Olympic golds, but he also is now the first Korean athlete to win three straight titles at the Olympics, whether it be the summer or winter Games. He has a total of four golds and two silvers on his shelf now, making him the most successful Olympian in Korea’s history.

But Jin is not satisfied with where he is at now. He will try to extend his record even further, by staying on in the sport for a while longer. Before the Rio Games, Jin said, “I would like to take a shot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well. Some say I should make room for up-and-comers, but I just want to do my best and nothing more. I still haven’t been to Paris [a likely venue for 2024 Summer Games] yet.”

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]

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