Korea looks for 'one or two' gold medals at Beijing Games
The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) held a Media Day event on Wednesday to mark 30 days until the 2022 Beijing Olympics kicks off, with a number of Korean Olympians and coaches attending to talk to reporters at Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong.
The Beijing Olympics will run from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20, with more than 5,000 athletes from over 90 countries expected to come together to compete in the 17-day event.
Korea hosted the last Winter Olympics, the 2018 PyeongChang Games, winning five gold, eight silver and four bronze medals. But with a number of issues facing the squad, the bar has been set a lot lower this year.
"Korea's goal is to win one to two gold medals at the Beijing Games," said KSOC President Lee Kee-heung. "Of course, the more the better. We hope other events than short track like snowboarding and curling will achieve good results this year."
With many qualifying competitions cancelled or severely postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Team Korea is yet to earn Olympic berths for some events. As of now, Korea has 32 athletes officially qualified in five events.
One of them is two-time Olympic gold medalist Choi Min-jeong. Choi is one of the world's top women's short track skaters. Not only does she have two Olympic gold medals and 12 World Championship gold medals, but she also holds the current world record of 2:14.354 in the women’s 1500-meter, which she set on Nov. 12, 2016.
"Since this is my second time on the big stage, I now have much more experience," said Choi. "The Beijing ice rink is known to be difficult. Some skaters don't like it but I like it."
Alongside Choi, speed skater Kim Bo-reum will become a three-time Olympian at the Beijing Games, having appeared at the 2014 Sochi Games and the 2018 PyeongChang Games, where she won her first silver medal in the inaugural women's mass start. For most of the race, Kim trailed behind the 16-women pack, but put on an incredible come back in the last lap to finish as runner-up.
"All athletes will be playing toward their own goals at the Olympics," said Kim Bo-reum. "The medal goal of Korea as a whole does not matter that much."
Curler Kim Seon-yeong also attended the event. The Korean women's curling team — the infamous Team Kim of the PyeongChang Olympics — earned their Beijing berth as they beat Latvia in the women's World Curling Federation Olympic qualification playoff on Dec. 18 last year in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.
Only Team Kim will be able to represent Korea in the curling events at the Beijing Olympics, as the men's team and mixed team failed to earn berths. The Beijing Olympics will mark Team Kim's second consecutive time on the big stage, following the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics where they won silver.
"I think we only need to focus on what we've prepared for," said Kim Seon-young. "It does not disappoint us that Team Korea's medal goal is just one or two medals. We will focus on the process rather than the results like we did at the PyeongChang Games."
Kwak Yoon-gy, who won the men's 5000-meter relay gold medal alongside Park Jang-hyuk, Park In-wook and Kim Dong-wook in the fourth round of the 2021–22 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on Nov. 28 last year, announced that the Beijing Games will be his last.
"I think Beijing will be my last time on the big stage," said Kwak. "Since it is my last time, I want to put on a show that I can be proud of."
The entire Korean squad will gather on Jan. 25 and will head to Beijing on Jan. 31.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]