By Kang Seung-woo
South Korea cemented its status as a sporting powerhouse, surpassing its initial goal of 10 golds and achieving a top 10 finish at the London Olympics.
Heading into the last day of the 30th Summer Games, the nation is sitting fifth in the medal standings with 13 gold, seven silver and seven bronze behind the United States, China, Britain and Russia as of 5 p.m. Sunday (KST).
Team Korea, comprised of 245 athletes and 129 officials, participated in 22 events and tied its all-time record for gold medals, set in 2008, when it won 13 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze.
Ahead of the games, Korea’s target looked beyond its grasp as baseball, in which Korea took the title in Beijing, was dropped from London’s line-up. Also, the prospect for taekwondo success was bleaker as rival countries have risen fast.
However, Korea’s athletes eased the concerns by matching their best display since their maiden Olympic participation in 1948.
Archery and shooting were the biggest contributors to meeting the goal, providing three gold medals apiece.
Korea’s dominance in archery continued at Lord’s Cricket Ground.
Ki Bo-bae triumphed in the women’s singles and helped the Korean team cruise to its seventh-straight victory, while Oh Jin-hyek won brought home the first-ever Olympic title in the men’s singles. The men also ended up with bronze in the team event.
Unexpected performances from shooters also kept Korea’s medal race on track.
Marksman Jin Jong-oh handed Korea its first gold in London, winning the men’s 10-meter air pistol on the first day. The 32-year-old also topped the 50-meter pistol podium to become the nation’s first athlete to successfully defend an individual Olympic title.
Kim Jang-mi added gold in the women’s 25-meter pistol to the shooting team’s tally, which finished the games with three golds and two silvers.
Fencing and judo played second fiddle in terms of medal count.
Choi Byung-chul ignited Korea’s impressive run with bronze in the men’s foil, followed by Kim Ji-yeon’s gold in the women’s saber and epee fencer Jung Jin-sun’s bronze.
The men’s saber team also triumphed, while the women’s foil and epee teams pocketed bronze and silver, respectively.
Judokas Kim Jae-bum and Song Dae-nam each became Olympic champions in the men’s under-81 and under-90 kilogram classes to live up to expectations.
Others delivered long-awaited success in sports the nation has not traditionally been competitive.
Gymnast Yang Hak-seon claimed the nation’s first-ever gold in the men’s vault since the nation made its gymnastics debut in 1960, while Kim Hyeon-woo topped the podium in wrestling, the first time for a Korean since the 2004 Athens Games.
Although Park Tae-hwan failed to win gold, he grabbed two silver in both the men’s 400- and 200-meter freestyle. The 22-year-old swimmer finished fourth in the 1,500 freestyle.
The football team also claimed the bronze after beating archrivals Japan 2-0 in the third-place match, while Son Yeon-jae advanced to the individual all-around rhythmic gymnastics final where she finished fifth.