Olympic champion happy with black eye
His right eye was black and blue and swollen, but that didn’t stop South Korean wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo from winning the gold in men’s 66-kilogram Greco-Roman competition Wednesday.
And no man or woman in such state could have looked as happy as the 23-year-old wrestler after he beat Hungarian Tamas Lorincz in two rounds with scores of 1-0, 2-0 in the final. The sport at the Summer Olympics can last for a maximum of three periods of two minutes and a wrestler who takes the first two periods or pins an opponent is declared the winner.
“There is a saying in Korea that my coach uses all the time. ‘If you work hard, the sky will know.’ I worked hard and I think the sky recognized my efforts,” Kim said.
“I couldn’t see through one eye, which was annoying,” Kim said. “But I got through it with my mentality.
With Kim’s gold, Korea, a powerhouse in Olympic wrestling, could fix its damaged reputation from the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Korea had pocketed 10 gold medals since the 1976 Games, but managed to win only one bronze four years ago.
“There were no (wrestling) gold medals for Korea in Beijing, so I feel very happy to have won here to revive wrestling in Korea,” he said.
Kim, a native of Gangwon Province, became the nation’s first wrestler to triumph in the lightweight category, in which the best achievement for Korea had been Kim Sung-moon’s silver in 1988.
In the gold-medal match, Kim used all his strength to successfully defend a par terre in the first period and then threw his opponent in the second to seal the victory.
While taking a victory lap, amid many cheers, he laid out the South Korean national flag in the middle of the mat and bowed down to it.
Judoka-turned-wrestler Kim took up wresting two years ago, and claimed the Asian Championships upon his debut.
Although he had the Asian title under his belt, he was not considered in contention for gold in London. To make his situation worse, his swollen right eye that he suffered during his first fight against Armenia’s Hovhannes Varderesyan prevented him from fully seeing competitors.
“All along, I’ve been wondering if I’d be good enough to win an Olympic gold medal,” he said.
“But my coaches kept encouraging me. They told me I would grow more confident if I started thinking positively.”
Despite the trouble, Kim, the bronze medalist at last year’s world championships, wowed a sell-out crowd at ExCeL Arena by downing reigning Olympic champion Steve Guenot of France in the penultimate round.