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D-14, Go Team Korea!

Team Korea gathered for their inaugural meeting at Olympic Hall in Seoul Olympic Park on July 11. The meeting was attended by 374 athletes in the final roster and also by Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik, as well as the head of Korea’s 2012 Olympic delegation and the chairman of the Korea Sports Council.

“I believe in the sweat the athletes have lived by,” said Minister Choe at the meeting. “I hope the Team Korea perform with confidence.” President Lee Myung-bak also made his appearance on a video screen, saying “The Olympics are not just about sports but challenge and achievement. I cheer for Team Korea who take part in the games full of fighting spirit.”

Ham Ki-yong, a former marathoner who participated in the 1948 London Olympics, also visited the inaugural ceremony to give courage to the competitors. “In 1948, it took 18 days to get to London by ferry, train, and plane,” said Ham recalling his past days. “We continued practicing on our way on the ship’s deck, at the airport check-in counter, no matter where we stood. When we got there, we were almost worn out. Now, it only takes about ten plus hours. Team Korea will hopefully give their best performance at the arena.”

Team Korea’s inaugural ceremony wishing for a great performance at the London Olympics took place in Olympic Park on July 11 (photo: Yonhap News).

Team Korea will leave for London on July 20. The first Korean team set to compete in London is the football team on July 26. Football fans reveal their enthusiasm for the fact that the match will kick off in London, the home of football. Moreover, the final match and South Korea’s clash with Gabon will take place in New Wembley Stadium, the second largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 90,000.

Footballer Koo Ja-cheol seems happy at a training session (photo: Yonhap News).
Manager Hong Myung-bo, a former member of the Korean national team who is often considered the greatest Asian footballer, leads the team towards their aim for a medal. Two forwards Koo Ja-cheol (Augsburg) and Ki Sung-yeung (Celtic FC), who showed exceptional performances last season, will occupy the central position. “We can survive the tight training programs for a happy outcome,” said team captain Koo, expressing his desire for a great performance. The combination of Kim Bo-kyung (Cerezo Osaka), often dubbed the next Park Ji-sung, Nam Tae-hee (Lekhwiya), a rising star in the Middle East and a wild card, Park Chu-young (Arsenal) raise expectations for the team’s strength. “It is more important for the success of our team than the fulfillment of individual goals,” said Kim Bo-Kyung, emphasizing team spirit.

Sports shooting is one of the promising sports for Team Korea. The air pistol event has come to attention since the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Jin Jong-oh clinched a gold medal in the 50-meter air pistol event and the silver in the 10-meter air pistol. “Shooting is a one-shot contest,” Jin said, meaning he had to overcome the influence of the one powerful shot. Having experienced many ups and downs, the veteran shooter says his goal is beyond the 2012 London Olympics. “I will win a gold medal at any cost in London and hope to win a third gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.”

Kim Jang-mi, Korea’s Olympic shooting hopeful, contends for victory too. The 20-year-old shooter is on the fast track for an Olympic win, having won a gold medal in the 10-meter air pistol event at the 2010 Youth Olympics, ranking first place in the 2012 Asian Championships, and setting a new world record at the 2012 ISSF World Cup. Her score was 0.2 points higher than Maria Grozdeva, who has won gold medals twice for Bulgaria.

She dreams of a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. “As Team Korea, I should perform well not for my own goal but other athletes in Korea,” said Kim.

The archery team is one of Korea’s best national teams in the Olympics. The number of medals the archery team has won accounts for almost 25% of the total, having netted 16 gold, 9 silver and 5 bronzes.

The women’s archery team has recently been in a slump, missing gold for the first time in 20 years at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since then, the Korea National Archery Team has been eager for the trip to London. “We are still being trained not to be distracted by the cry of the crowds or the wind,” said Lee Sung-jin, ace of the women’s archery team.

Practice continues (photo: Weekly Gonggam).

Some athletes dream to rise up again at the London Olympics, case in point: judoka Wang Ki-chun and fencer Nam Hyun-hee. In the quarterfinals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wang lost in 13 seconds, largely influenced by the aftereffects of a rib fracture. He settled himself down to move on and started to show progress, winning seven consecutive games and ranking first place on international stages.

Nam Hyun-hee also faced a tantalizing situation in Beijing. In the final game, she was beating Italy 5 to 4 but was overtaken at the last minute, giving away the gold. The final score, made just four seconds before the end of the game, depressed her more. Nam, relatively shorter than European athletes, is determined to fight with speed, one of her best assets.

By Lee Seung-ah Staff Writer

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