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Fresh faces, big dreams on Korea’s Olympics roster

With this year’s Summer Olympic Games fast approaching, the excitement surrounding South Korea’s London-bound national team is continuing to grow. Although much of the attention has centered on big names in long-popular events such as taekwondo, swimming, and weightlifting, the up-and-coming athletes who will be competing in lesser-known events are preparing to show the Korean people their mettle.

Modern pentathlon (Men’s: 8/11, Women’s: 8/12)

The modern pentathlon consists of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, show jumping on horseback, and a three-kilometer cross-country run. South Korea has yet to win an Olympic medal for the sport but has continued to place at the World Modern Pentathlon Championships, the Modern Pentathlon World Cup, and the Asian Games.

The top 36 athletes in the men’s and women’s divisions are eligible to compete at the Olympics, and each country is allowed to send two athletes from each division. At this year’s games, South Korea will be represented in the men’s contest by 23-year-old Jeong Jin-hwa and 22-year-old Hwang Wu-jin, and in the women’s contest by 24-year-old Yang Su-jin.

National athletes Hwang Wu-jin, Yang Su-jin, and Jeong Jin-hwa (from left) will be representing South Korea in the modern pentathlon event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.National athletes Hwang Wu-jin, Yang Su-jin, and Jeong Jin-hwa (from left) will be representing South Korea in the modern pentathlon event at the 2012 London Olympic Games (photo: Weekly Gonggam).


Hwang and Jeong, both students at Korea National Sport University, rank ninth and eleventh, respectively, in world rankings. Having secured silver and bronze at this year’s World Cup Finals in China, the teammates and long-rivals are proving themselves promising medal candidates in London.

“Jeong has exceptional strength of will and concentration, while Hwang is especially quick and agile,” said team coach Nam Byeong-uk.

Yang, who started out as a swimmer before crossing over successfully to the pentathlon, ranks 21st in the world and recently came in sixth at the World Cup Finals.

Triathlon (Finals: 8/7)

The triathlon at the Olympics consists of a 1.5-kilometer swimming race, a 40-kilometer cycling race, and a ten-kilometer marathon. With no rests in between, the event demands high levels of strength and endurance.

The chance to compete in the triathlon at the Olympics goes to the top 55 athletes in the world. This year, 22-year-old Heo Min-ho, one of four athletes competing from Asia, will be representing South Korea for the first time in the history of the Olympic event.

Triathlete Heo Min-ho, who will compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games, will be the first South Korean athlete to participate in the Olympic triathlon event.Triathlete Heo Min-ho, who will compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games, will be the first South Korean athlete to participate in the Olympic triathlon event (photo: Weekly Gonggam).


“I’m happy to have opened the door to the Olympics,” said Heo, “but at the same time, I feel the weight of my duty to pave the way for future Korean triathletes.”

Heo began training as a triathlete in first grade, going on to place seventh twice in the junior triathlon world championships while in secondary school. At the Asian Triathlon Championships held in Taiwan last year, Heo won bronze.

“My immediate goal is to become the best [triathlete] in Asia,” said Heo. “Inasmuch as triathletes usually hit their prime in their early to mid-30s, right now is only the beginning for me.” Heo left for France on June 25 and will be training at 2,000-meter-plus altitudes in the French alpine region.

Yachting (7/30)

The experience and skill required for a yachting race, which often leaves racers at the mercy of unpredictable winds and ocean currents, has been displayed by various Korean athletes over the years. From the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, Korea’s yachters have won six gold medals at various competitions throughout recent years. At the Olympics, however, national athletes have yet to stand on the medal podium.

South Korean yachter Lee Tae-hoon will be competing in the single-person RS:X windsurfing event at the 2012 London Olympic Games.South Korean yachter Lee Tae-hoon will be competing in the single-person RS:X windsurfing event at the 2012 London Olympic Games (photo: Weekly Gonggam).


This year, four yachters from South Korea will be competing in London. Asian Games gold medalist Ha Jee-min will be competing in the individual dinghy laser event, Lee Tae-hoon in the individual RS:X windsurfing event, and Park Geon-wu and Joseong Min-jo will partner up for the two-person 470 dinghy event.

26-year-old Lee, who secured his ticket to London last December after placing 17th at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Australia, recently placed tenth in the overall rankings at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta 2012 in Weymouth, England, where the Olympic races are set to take place.

“Yachting requires you to adjust yourself to be in rhythm with nature,” said Lee. “While there will likely be various factors affecting the race, depending on the climate, my goal is to qualify for the top ten and win a medal.”

More information on South Korea’s national athletes and the 2012 London Olympic Games can be found at the website of the Korean Olympic Committee and at the 2012 London Olympic Games issue corner in the Current Affairs menu of Korea.net.

Adapted from Weekly Gonggam Magazine
Translated by Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer

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