By HyunChon Kim
Translated by Michael Leshiak
Boston’s Korean residents could not help rejoicing after a flurry of gold medals were won by Korean athletes at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. On the 15th Jeong Soo Lee won Korea’s first gold in the men’s 1’500 meter short track speed skating event. Tae Beom Mo followed with another gold on the 16th in the men’s 500m speed skating event, and on the 17th Sang Hwa Lee won yet another gold medal for Korea in the women’s 500m speed skating event.
“At first I wasn’t interested, but then I heard of one gold, two… I really started to pay attention” seems to be what every Korean is saying. It’s impossible not to take notice after the news of winning a gold medal in unexpected events.
Korean Dry Cleaner’s Former Association chairman Mr. Jeong Bong Sohn said that while years ago watching the short track finals he noticed a striking difference between Korean skaters and others in the finals, now he could tell Korean skaters have developed greatly. “You can just feel how good they are!” said Mr. Sohn.
Furthermore, Mr. Sohn explained that while living in Korea he had no interest in the Winter Olympics, but having lived in the United States for a long time when he hears of a Korean athlete winning gold he drops whatever he is doing to check it out. Seeing a Korean winning gold amongst the best athletes in the world makes him very proud.
Still, a fair number of Koreans felt that in the 1,500m short track event Korean athletes had an opportunity to place first, second, and third. Soung Dae Yang, Photoshop Instructor at Boston Korean Culture Center, felt heart break of Ono’s silver medal when Shi Baek Seong and Ho Seok Lee, skating in lanes 2 and 3, became entangled and crashed. However, he said “it’s really impressive that despite having a smaller physic than many foreign athletes Korean speed skaters have been able to win for several generations.”
Mr. Yang continued, mentioning that she “had seen in the news that athletes from Massachusetts and New Hampshire had won gold,” and felt that “if our athletes could receive a better training environment they would set more records.”
He added that now he can’t wait for the appearance of Yeon Ah Kim.
On the other hand, rather than reacting only to gold many international students showed maturity applauding the efforts of other athletes.
Asked about the 1500m Short Track, director of BU KBC Ji Wan Jeong said “because the sport highlights place such an emphasis on winning gold, or coming in first, I got the feeling like athletes in second or third place did want it too much,” but that “before we judge those athletes we need to consider our own attitudes in the past.”
He also said that it people should urge netizens who blame Ho Seok Lee and Shi Baek Seong for “excessive competition” to instead “of blame, to show encouragement and support.”
It is the opinion of Korean-Americans that Winter Olympic events should be sponsored in Korea on a national level. “I was very proud of our Korean athletes who won gold medals for the very first time in the speed skating events,” said Hyun-jung Choi a Korean student studying in Boston. She also added she believes with stronger support from the government in respective events and systematic training system Korea will be able to achieve greater feats of excellence in the future.
David Choi, a small business owner located in Allston said, “Through the news and internet I was able to find out training environments and benefits for Korean athletes have improved a lot,” and said the government should not hold back from continuous support of them. “For people who live overseas like us it is a great source of pride for us,” said Mr.Choi who added athletes who achieve such inspiring achievements are great examples for hard working Korean-Americans and Korean students studying abroad alike.
The winter Olympics have not been a keen area of interest because participating Korean athletes were unable to perform to the expectations of Korean-American fans. News of continuing gold medal achievements by Korean athletes in this winter Olympics were an unexpected surprise and a reason for Korean-Americans to take interest more than ever before.
“I had no interest in events other than figure-skating and short-track skating but afterwards I was interested in other events as well. I thought the Korean athletes are doing really well,” said Han-jin Jung. He said he will automatically be interested every coming season. He also pointed out that the results of this winter Olympics will show to the world that Korea is serious competitor in the winter sports arena.
Korea entered Saint Moritz winter Olympics for the first time in 1948, and 62 years later Tae-Beom Mo produced the country’s first gold medal in men’s Olympic speed skating. Sang-Hwa Lee also won Korea’s first gold medal in women’s speed skating, and while doing so also broke German skater Yanni Volf’s world record (76.14 sec).
Due to unexpected gold medal achievements in this winter Olympics Korea is hoping to surpass their performance at Torino and make this the best showing in Korean Olympic history.
Korean Olympic Association’s Tae-rung athletic sports town medical team’s director Jin-hwan Kim commented, “For athletes to obtain gold medals in international competitions it takes both the coaches’ and the athletes’ unrelenting efforts. The medals won in the early rounds of competition will boost morale for all Korean athletes who have entered and will bring good results for them as well.”