Korea Becomes G-7 Sports Powerhouse
By Kang Seung-woo
South Korea has become the seventh sports power and regained its glory of being Asia's second largest sporting country at the Beijing Olympics, which ended its 17-day run Sunday night.
The country grabbed an all-time best record of 13 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze medals, ``overachieving'' in its initial goal of getting 10 golds and staying in the top 10.
One day before the closing ceremony, Korea added two golds in baseball and taekwondo and one bronze from the women's handball Saturday to rank seventh in the medal rankings.
Host China topped the Olympics for the first time with 51 gold medals followed by the United States with 36.
Russia, Great Britain and Germany rounded out the top five finish.
South Korea regained the No. 2 Asian spot it yielded to Japan at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Japan collected nine golds to be listed eighth ― it also has six silver and 10 bronze medals.
Since the Seoul Games in 1988, Korea had not ranked lower than its main sports rival until the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Prior to the Olympics, South Korea's outlook to accomplish the goal did not look within its grasp.
Former Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) Kim Jung-kil resigned two months prior to the Olympics following a feud with the government and Lee Yeon-taik took over.
However, the athletes quieted concerns by getting off to a stunning start in Beijing.
The nation collected six golds in the first five days ranking it third behind China and the United States.
Judoka Choi Min-ho opened the gold rush, topping the men's 60-kilogram division and Park Tae-hwan brought the country's historic first swimming Olympic gold in the men's 400-meter freestyle.
Men and women archers swept the team competitions, which were third and six straight victories at the Summer Games.
Marksman Jin Jong-oh shot to gold in the men's 50-meter pistol, while Sa Jae-hyouk lifted gold in the men's weightlifting 77 kilograms.
Although its gold hunt came to an interim halt, lifter Jang Mi-ran clinched an Olympic title with three world records in the women's over-75 kilograms and Lee Yong-dae and Lee Hyo-jung added in the badminton mixed doubles.
The nation completed a taekwondo sweep as all four of its fighters captured gold medals, and the Kim Kyung-moon-led baseball team topped the Olympic for the first time to wrap up Korea's gold quest.
South Korea's athletes gave brilliant performances in sports they had not been competitive in.
Park's one gold and one silver showed South Korea can compete in swimming, which has been dominated by Australia and the United States, while rhythmic gymnast Shin Soo-ji performed on the Olympic stage for the first time since 1992.
Meanwhile, wrestling, which had won at least one gold medal since the Montreal Olympics in 1976, struggled with one bronze, while the football squad failed to make the quarterfinals.
Worse, the nation's seven consecutive gold bid in the women's individual archery also ended, with archers finishing with silver and bronze.
Outside the Olympic match ups, Moon Dae-sung was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes' Commission. He is the first Asian Olympian ever to be voted onto the organization.
In the poll, the Athens gold medalist in taekwondo came first after receiving 3,220 out of 7,216 votes.