With the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro just around the corner, thousands of athletes from around the world will soon begin to live their Olympic dream. More than 10 000 athletes will compete for the Olympic Champion title, hear the national anthem of their country and leave their mark on the world’s biggest sporting stage in Brazil this summer. Excitement and expectations are growing high among the Team Korea athletes as well. They are training hard and refining techniques to deliver the best performances possible in Rio and to rank in the top 10 in the medal table. I’d like to introduce you to some of the highly anticipated prospects who are training hard to carry on their victories to Rio 2016 and some new blood rising stars of the next generation!
KI BO BAE · 기보배 – Women’s Archery
The reigning Olympic Champion, Ki Bo Bae, is the only one returning form the previous Olympic squad among the six athletes who were revealed by The Korean Archery Association who will represent archery’s most successful nation at the Olympic Games. She is looking to defend her title in Brazil this summer.
After winning 2 Olympic titles in her first Olympics, Ki went through tough times of slump, failing to making Team Korea for the 2014 Asian Games. But came back strong to win 2 golds and a silver at the 2015 Gwangju Summer Universiade. Ki was selected as the World Archery Athlete of the Year in 2015 by the World Archery Federation as well. After going through some fierce competition at the Olympic trials, she made Team Korea and was named among the 50 athletes to look for in Rio this summer.
The golden archer has also spoken about setting new records. Ki said that retaining first place is much more difficult than competing for first place. But she believes she can achieve a new record of two consecutive gold medals for the first time in women’s individual archery, if she trains hard. She has shown her desire to win a possible eighth consecutive gold for the women’s archery team with her teammates. Korea has won every single recurve women’s team competition since the event was first introduced to the Games back in Seoul in 1988.
LEE DAE HOON · 이대훈 – Taekwondo Male -68kg
Still at the top of his game, Lee Dae Hoon is definitely one of the favourites to win the gold in Rio this summer. After a disappointing silver in the under 58kg category at the 2012 London Olympic Games, he felt short to become the youngest Korean ever to have grand slam in 4 major competitions.
From the birthplace of the sport, the Seoul native started his taekwondo career at the age of 4. His father ran a taekwondo gym, which was his playground. He explained how he was ahead of others at his age, because he learned naturally. He competed and won his first competition at the age of 10 and his formal win was at a Seoul City tournament at the age of 12. Fast forward to the present, he is now one of the top players in the sport.
Not dwelling in his victories, he is training harder than ever and is aiming for gold in Rio. Since Korea has one of the strongest taekwondo teams in the world, Korea’s Olympic taekwondo trials often turn out to be more competitive and harder than the World Championship. Long story short, he is going to Rio and with his sights firmly on gold, he has moved up a weight class to the featherweight (68kg division) from flyweight (58kg division). He knows that there is a lot of pressure for him to deliver the country’s first men’s taekwondo Olympic title since 2008. But we are sure that he will bring his best to each match and enjoy the Olympics to the fullest at the same time!
LEE YONG DAE & YOO YEON SEONG · 이용대 & 유연성 – Badminton Men’s Doubles
Going in to the games as the top seed in the men’s doubles, Lee-Yoo duo is definitely the strong favourite to win the gold medal. Since badminton made its official Olympic debut in 1992, South Korea has been one of the most successful nations capturing six gold medals and 18 medals in total. But, only one of those medals came from the previous games in London 2012, a bronze from Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung in the men’s doubles.
After the disappointment in London 2012, the Korean players assured that the things will be different this summer in Rio. Lee and Yoo are currently ranked No. 1 with 94079 points in the world since August 2014, 21359 points ahead of Setiawan-Ahsan of Indonesia. The duo remains as the biggest medal hopeful for South Korea.
Lee Yong Dae, who won the gold in mixed doubles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he’s fueled by the disappointment in London, where he settled for bronze with his partner, Jung Jae Sung. Lee added that he will always remember the event and that he wants to use lessons learned from that experience to do better in Rio. Through winning all the tournaments, Lee-Yoo’s confidence has grown so much over the past year and they are trying to keep up their momentum to capture the gold medal this summer!
JIN JONG OH · 진종오 – Men’s Shooting
Jin Jong Oh, competing at his fourth consecutive Olympics, hopes to become the first person ever in the history to win three consecutive gold medals in the men’s 50 meter pistol in the Olympic Games. He was not hesitant as he pulled the trigger at the shooting range at a national tryout held in Naju. In fact, he took first place among the 17 shooters participating in the tryout.
Jin has already captured five Olympic medals, including three golds and two silvers. Not only will he be adding two more medals in Rio if he wins in 10-meter air pistol and 50-meter pistol competitions, he will break the Kim Soo Nyeong (Archer)’s record of most medals won by a Korean athlete at the Olympics. Jin said, “Since no one has ever acquired the gold medal in individual shooting competitions in three consecutive Olympic Games in the world’s shooting history, I wish to achieve three consecutive wins in the 50-meter pistol competition without fail.”
He added, “I feel sorry the most when I hear that it is about time I hand over the seat on the national team to younger shooters. It is true that I feel depleted in physical stamina myself. My eyesight was level 1.5 during my college years, but it is now 0.6.” But he has never been to Brazil, and hence he truly wanted to join the Olympic roster for Rio 2016. He also showed his hope to take on a challenge to participate in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo as well.
PARK IN BEE · 박인비 – Women’s Golf
Golf returns to the Olympic Games for the first time since 1904 in Rio de Janeiro this summer. South Korea is the only country sending four woman golfers to Rio and will be represented by four top-class LPGA players, Park In Bee, Kim Sei Young, Amy Yang and Chun In Gee.
The world no. 3 Park In Bee, the oldest member of the contingent, who just turned 28, is the most decorated golfer in Korea’s history. Park counts 7 majors among her 17 LPGA titles and was qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame last season.
Park will lead the charge after she announced a late decision of competing at the Olympics after all her injuries. She is going through an injury-plagued season that has seen her miss 2 cuts and withdraw 3 times in 10 LPGA Tour events. She also went through a back issue early this season and has been troubled by a left thumb injury in recent weeks. Fortunately, she has healed and she feels she can proudly represent South Korea in Rio.
The athletes hope to play their part to make Rio 2016 a memorable lifetime event that will inspire a generation! So if you are going to root hard for anyone this Olympic season, make it them!