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Korea records best performance in 2008 Summer Olympics

Jang Mi-ran (center) who won the gold medal in the women’s over-75 kilogram weightlifting event waves the Korean flag at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on Aug. 24. (Source: Yonhap News)After 17 days of competition, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games in Beijing came to an end with a lavish closing ceremony on Aug. 24.

This year’s Olympics will probably be remembered as the most joyful sporting event for Korea, as the nation recorded its best performance ever, securing seventh place in the medal count with 13 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze medals.

In past Olympic Games, Korea won 12 gold medals in Barcelona in 1992, seven in Atlanta, eight in Sydney, and nine in Athens in 2004.

With this year’s outstanding performance, the country ranked second among Asian nations, after China and just ahead of Japan.

It is the first time in eight years that Korea has outperformed Japan to be the Asian nation with the second-highest number of Olympic medals.

Initially, Korea had entered this year’s Games with the goal of winning ten gold medals and ranking in the top ten 10 in the medal standings.

Korean baseball players celebrate after beating Cuba 3-2 in the gold medal baseball game on Aug. 23. (Source: AP-Yonhap News)Korea’s performance far exceeded its original goal, giving it its best performance in Olympic history.

This astounding achievement was partly thanks to remarkable performances by its baseball team and taekwondo athletes.

One day before the closing ceremony, the men’s baseball team won the country’s record 13th gold medal with a 3-to-2 win over defending champion Cuba, after a nine-game winning streak.

Slugger Lee Seungyoup set the table for Korea’s thrilling victory with a two-run home run in the first inning.

In addition, all four Korean taekwondo athletes won gold, maintaining the country’s pride as the birthplace of the martial art.

Following Lim Su-jeong, Son Tae-jin and Hwang Kyung-seon, Cha Dong-min beat Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece 5-4 in the men’s 80 kg class on Aug. 24.

Medalists pose for photographers on the podium for the Men’s +80kg Taekwon-Do on Aug. 23 In this From left to right: silver medalist Alexandros Nikolaidis of Greece, gold medalist Cha Dongmin of Korea, bronze medalists Arman Chilmanov of Kazakhstan and Chika Yagazie Chukwumerije of Nigeria. (Source: AP-Yonhap News)Prior to the taekwondo and baseball victories, the nation collected eight golds, some in events that Koreans had been considered weak in.

The first to snatch the gold was judoka Choi Min-ho, who topped the men’s 60-kilogram division.

He was soon followed by swimming sensation Park Tae-hwan in the men’s 400-m freestyle and the men’s and women’s archery teams.

Park Tae-hwan, also known as ’Marine Boy’ in Korea, brought the country’s historic first-ever swimming Olympic gold in the men’s 400-meter freestyle.

Park, who turns 19 next month, set a new Asian record of three-minutes and 41.86 seconds, defeating Australian favorite Grant Hackett, a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Men and women archers swept the team competitions, which were their third and sixth straight victories at the Summer Games, respectively.

Next, marksman Jin Jong-oh shot to gold in the men’s 50-meter pistol, while Sa Jae-hyouk lifted
gold in the men’s weightlifting 77-kilogram class.

Park Tae-hwan of Korea celebrates after winning the men’s 400 meters freestyle swimming final on Aug. 10. (Source: Yonhap News)Following that, lifter Jang Mi-ran clinched an Olympic victory and three world records in the women’s over-75 kilogram class and Lee Yong-dae and Lee Hyo-jung added in the badminton mixed doubles.

This Olympiad was even more meaningful for Korea, in that her athletes gave brilliant performances in sports in which they had not been considered strong, including swimming, weightlifting and fencing,

Although not winning a medal in rhythmic gymnasts, Korea was represented in the Olympics for the first time since 1992, by Shin Soo-ji.

The Olympic athletes got a heroes’ welcome after their return on Aug. 25.

A celebratory parade took place in central Seoul toward Seoul City Hall, and tens of thousands of people shared the joy of the best Olympics in Korean history.

By Han Aran Staff Writer

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