Chief delegate credits success for improving nat'l profile
The head of the South Korean delegation to the London Olympics said Friday the athletes' performances at the ongoing Summer Olympics have helped raise the country's profile.
At a press conference, Lee Kee-heung, the chief delegate, said South Korean athletes have successfully given "hopes and encouragement" to supportive fans at home.
"At this year's Olympics, we wanted to pay tribute to our predecessors who participated in the 1948 London Olympics," Lee said. "We also had a chance to display our improved profile."
Through Thursday, South Korea had won 12 gold medals, just one shy of its record for the most gold medals at a single Olympics, with taekwondo events still to come Friday and Saturday. The total is also two more than South Korea's stated target.
"We expect a record total of gold medals this year," Lee said. "It's all thanks to the combination of people's support, the government's assistance and hard work put in by athletes and their coaches."
Lee noted improved performances in shooting and fencing, where South Korea has earned five gold medals combined. The country picked up three of four gold medals in archery, one of its traditional strengths. Yang Hak-seon in men's vault won the country's first Olympic gold in gymnastics.
Lee credited the Korean training camp at a local institute, Brunel University, for helping athletes achieve greater heights.
"This is the best thing we have done at these Olympics as a delegation," he said. "The training base allowed athletes to train with proper partners, served them delicious and nutritious Korean food, and offered medical care. We will look to open a similar camp for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro."
South Korea also often found itself at the center of officiating controversies, most notably involving female epee fencer Shin A-lam. In the sudden-death extra time during her semifinal bout against Britta Heidemann of Germany, the two fencers exchanged three simultaneous hits while the clock, showing one second left, never ticked down.
After the third exchange, the clock went down to zero and then was reset to the one-second mark. The German finally got her decisive hit for the victory on her fourth try.
South Korea's appeal was rejected by the International Fencing Federation. The Korean Olympic Committee sought a joint medal for Shin but was turned down by the International Olympic Committee.
Lee said Shin got the short end of the stick in her bout, but that doesn't absolve South Korean officials of their responsibility.
"Clearly, there were problems with how Shin's bout was handled," he said. "But for our part, we overlooked a proper procedure for appealing, and we shouldn't look past that bit of responsibility."
In individual events, the athlete is supposed to appeal the ruling on the field of play. In Shin's case, her coach, Shim Jae-sung, made the appeal.
During the Olympics, a South Korean sailing coach was sent home after getting fined for driving under the influence. Four badminton players and their assistant coach also were dealt the same fate after getting embroiled in a match-throwing scandal.
Lee called these mishaps "unacceptable under any circumstances," and said further disciplinary measures will be taken after the Olympics. (Yonhap)