Short but speedy: fencers grab 6 medals in London
By Kim Eun-ji
Two golds, one silver and three bronzes are the medals that 17 Korean fencers, including seven males, gained at the ongoing Olympics, double the number of medals since the country gained its first two in 2000 Sydney Olympics.
It took 48 years for Korean fencers to bloom in the Olympics since the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when one female and three male fencers participated for the first time.
The road to six medals, however, was not all “happy and glorious” _ Korean people and players alike are still lamenting over epee fencer Shin A-lam’s semifinal against Germany’s Britta Heidemann.
Although male fencers, Shin and 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medalist Nam Hyun-hee ended up with no medal in their single’s events, they dominated the piste as teams, winning three medals.
The men won gold in team saber, the women a silver in team epee and another team foil won a bronze. This is sharp contrast to the medals in singles events _ two in 2000 and one in 2008.
“When we first started fencing, there were no textbooks and we kept on mimicking what we saw,” said Coach Lee Sang-ki, a bronze medalist in 2000 men’s singles epee.
“We also had limited chances to duel in international games.”
Korean players, however, are no longer “mimicking” other fencers. With shorter arms and legs than average Europeans, Korean fencers train to move faster, as opposed to training their upper bodies to maximize their reach like others, said an expert.
In fencing, the top seeded participant meets the lowest seeded one and so on, making it easier for higher-ranking fencers to win
Koreans had few chances of winning in the past because they didn’t have many ranking points and dueled with world champions, said Kim Yong-yul, the head coach of Korean fencing team.
Now, they also participate more in other international tournaments aside from the Olympics, gaining “points” in the International Fencing Federation (FIE) rankings.
“Players or committee members from other countries said ‘You are crazy,’” said Kim. “I thank our players.”
Kim said he expects much from the players and is looking forward to 2016 Brazil Olympics.