KOC President Recounts
Korean Squad's Untold Tale
Bursts into tears while disclosing his athletes'determination despite injuries
Korea's baseball team edged out Cuba 3 to 2 at the Beijing Ukersong Sports Center on Aug. 23 to cap its gold medal run at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The Korean team's historic feat brought to 13-10-8 the numbers of gold, silver and bronze medals Korea won during the Olympics, ranking seventh in the world.
The Korean baseball squad's dramatic achievement is one of the exciting moments Korean fans at the Chinese sports sites and in Korea enjoyed and still recall.
Lee Yeon-taek, president of the Korea Olympic Committee and concurrently chairman of the Korea Sports Council, recited the thrilling moments of the Korean Olympic team during the Beijing Olympics at a forum organized by the Korea Sports Diplomacy Forum at the Press Center in Seoul on Aug. 28.
The mood turned solemn at intervals as he burst into tears whenever he could no longer control his sentiment while recounting his experiences as he watched Korean players taking on their rivals to the best of their capacity to overcome injuries.
Lee began his sobbing for the first time when he commented on Paek Jong-sup, 28, of the Chungcheongnam-do Athletic Association, who was forced to quit just before fielding the 60kg-class boxing quarter-final match in accordance with the medical team's advice.
While talking about Wang Ki-chun, 20, of Yongin University, who won the silver medal in the 73 kg-class judo final despite his broken ribs, he had to stop for 20 seconds after saying, "I'm so nervous when an athlete refuses to quit competing even though he was told he was in danger of the loss of his larynx."Though he took the microphone while struggling to control his sentiment, he also burst into tears, saying, "Our poor athletes!"He said in an interview that the most dramatic moments for the Korean team were when weightlifter Chang Mi-ran took the gold medal in the over 75 kg competition and when swimmer Park Tae-hwan snatched the gold in the 400 meter freestyle.
However, Lee said, "Park will have to make strenuous efforts to keep on growing on top of the many words of encouragement and support. A focus should be on making him a great athlete and his athletic activities long-lived."A controversy occurred when the KOC president dissuaded Park, who has been catapulted to stardom, from returning home for his commercial activities before he was set to compete in another swimming competition. Park won the silver medal in the 200m freestyle on top of his gold, becoming a national superstar. Lee noted that athletes are banned from engaging in commercial activities during the Olympic period and violators may have their medals taken away.
As it came to Korea's achievements during the Olympic Games, Lee is a time-honored Korean sports leader who has raised Korea's sports standing to the list of global powerhouses. Lee, who was serving the remaining term of his predecessor, Kim Un-yong as KOC president, helped Korea place ninth in the medal tally during the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He said it is significant for the Korean Olympic squad to achieve a record high Olympic performance during the Beijing Olympics, surpassing the achievement it made during the Seoul Olympics in terms of medals. For Korea, once dubbed one of the five dragons of sports in Asia, the Beijing Olympics served as an opportunity for the nation to solidify its position as part of the three-dragon system in Asia together with China and Japan in sync with their national development.
Lee commented that Korean athletes suffered setbacks in combat sports during the Beijing Olympics due to an upsurge by rival countries. The biggest task Korea will have to carry out in the future is to explore such new sporting areas for garnering medals as canoeing together with measures to step up its presence in the track and field events and the other basic sports arenas. nw
(photo above) KOC President Lee Yeon-taek bursts into tears as he was recounting Korean Olympic squad's untold tales. (photo below) Lee gives a consolation money to Baek Jong-sup, who had to quit a Beijing Olympic boxing competition due to injuries.