Thursday’s 4th gold medal
By Jung Min-ho
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, three Korean athletes beat long odds to win gold medals.
But there is one group not recognized in the medals awarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that should be given a gold.
It is no less valuable than each of the three golds won Thursday and goes to the families of athletes who stay up late and give their full support to the nation’s competitors.
Judoka Song Dae-nam kissed his gold medal, but his mother Kang Chil-sun, 64, who was photographed praying for her son’s victory in the final, was not able to bring herself to watch. Kang said that she named her son in the hope he would become a “great man” and told the press that her wish came true.
lives. The 19-year-old shooter first took up the rifle seven years ago but changed to the pistol at her coach’s suggestion after a dental problem made her lose interest in the sport. She now wears a dental brace and one photo captured her toothy grin.
Song failed to participate in the Beijing Games because his rival Kim Jae-bum, winner of the under-81 kilogram class, went ahead of him. Song, 34, moved up a weight division and saw the London Games as his swansong.
Fencer Kim was also an underdog and became the first Korean woman to win an Olympic fencing title in the individual saber.
The day’s first surprising news came in the women’s 25-meter pistol at the Royal Artillery Barracks where Kim defeated defending champion Chen Ying of China. With that feat, Kim claimed the nation’s first gold in 20 years in the event. The 19-year-old faced defeat when Chen took a 0.8 point lead with only five shots left. With a heart of steel, the young markswoman lifted her gun and fired five shots into the 10-point circle. With a total score of 792.4, just 1 point ahead of Chen, Kim won her first gold only three years after switching to the pistol with the dream of becoming an Olympic champion.
“For a moment I thought that I’d lost the gold and then I thought that if I went to bed tonight with a silver medal then I would feel really bad and I thought that I needed to concentrate more,” Kim said. “Now, I just want a haircut.”
Only a few people watched Song with anticipation of victory against the finest judokas. The world No. 15 proved that rankings are mere indications that can’t predict who will be the last man standing. The odds started to shorten when Song eliminated world No. 1 Masashi Nishiyama of Japan in the quarterfinal. That gave the 33-year-old’s challenge real momentum. In the final, his coach and brother-in-law Jang Hoon was asked to leave for causing a disturbance. Unperturbed, Song defeated world No. 4 Asley Gonzalez of Cuba in the men’s 90-kilogram category at his first and probably last Olympics. Tears poured from his eyes and his coach ran to the new champion to celebrate.
“I’m so glad that I won a gold medal at my last Olympics,” Song said.
Fencer Kim Ji-yeon was another game changer that night and stunned defending champion Mariel Zagunis of the U.S. in the women’s sabre semifinal. Zagunis looked strong enough to take a third Olympic title. Taking the lead, the world No. 1 widened the gap with Kim to 12-5 at one point. Until then, everything seemed to be going as many had predicted. Kim’s relentless chase, however, began to unsettle her opponent who seemed totally unprepared for a loss. Kim turned the match around for a dramatic 15-13 victory.
World No. 2 Sofya Velikaya of Russia wasn’t strong enough to stop the underdog’s emergence in the title match, either. The final score was 15-10 and a new star in the sport is born.
“I can’t believe it. It feels like I won the lottery,” Kim said. “I have had some second and third finishes but this is my first time to win an international event. I tend to give up early but tonight, I really didn’t want to.”
With the surprising medal boost, the country has now passed the halfway point in its goal to win 10 gold medals to record a top-10 finish at the Summer Games.