Field hockey on gold mission for resurrection
This is the eighth in a series of interviews with Korean athletes who will take part in the 2012 London Olympics beginning July 27. – ED.
By Kang Seung-woo
Since last claiming a silver medal in 1996, the women’s field hockey team has fallen off the map, never even reaching the semifinals.
Worse, the bad track record has gradually led to less and less investment, weakening the pool of national players.
In order to boost the sport in Korea, the women’s hockey coach said that the London Games is the very place for Korea to attempt to capture the elusive gold medal.
“In the past, the Korean field hockey team boasted about a deep pool of talent because solid achievements at the Summer Games could easily justify recruiting young prospects,” Lim Heung-sin, head coach of the Korean women’s hockey team, said in an interview with The Korea Times.
“However, recent poor performances are attributed to the team’s weak depth chart, dented by lesser investment in the sport.
“Sport is like business. Without investment, there is no way of bringing in results.”
The women’s squad, which has pulled off its seventh-straight Olympic appearance at the London Olympics, grabbed a silver medal on home soil at the Seoul Games in 1988 and reached the semifinals in Barcelona, Spain four years later.
The glory days continued when the Korean women finished second again at the Atlanta Games in 1996 to establish themselves as a field hockey powerhouse on the women’s side.
Since then, however, they couldn’t get within touching distance of a podium finish, sitting ninth, seventh and again at ninth in the last three Olympics.
Lim, 45, said that field hockey is at a crossroads and a gold medal will see a return of its popularity.
“Currently, things are bad in Korean field hockey, placing it in a period of transition. As Park Tae-hwan’s gold touched off a swimming boom in Korea, we have to take the gold in London in order to resurrect field hockey locally,” said Lim, who also headed the national team at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and in two Asian Games, where Korea settled for silver.
“All Korean players on the national squad are now training hard (for a gold medal) to expand the base.”
In its preparation for the upcoming Summer Games, Korea, sitting eighth in the world rankings, has offered a bright outlook for the Olympics title, putting on solid performances against field hockey heavyweights.
In January’s Four Nations Tournament in Cordoba, Argentina featuring fourth-ranked Britain, No. 2 Argentina, sixth-ranked New Zealand and Korea, Lim’s side won the tournament and finished third at a four-team pre-Olympic tournament in May after failing to reaching the final on a goal difference.
At the Champions Trophy, the most prestigious international hockey event, in 2011, the team came in fourth, the highest finish since 1997.
At the London Olympics, Korea has been paired with the Netherlands, Britain, China, Japan and Belgium and the coach is satisfied with the draw.
“I do not think it is a tough draw. In order to reach the semifinals, we should beat China, Japan and Belgium and either Britain or the Netherlands,” he said.
It is little known that “Forever the Moment,” a sports flick fictionalizing the Korean women’s handball team, was originally to feature the women’s field hockey squad.
Although the plan foundered, Lim believes that the story of the women’s hockey team can surely be made into a sequel to the film if they score a significant notch in London.
“A gold medal will elevate the image of field hockey and the sport can become more widely known and retain a decent pool of talent,” he said.