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A good reason for the marathoners' failure

Posted October. 01, 2000 19:35,   


The Korea Sports Council, the umbrella organization of all Korean athletic organizations, has stated on various occasions that a gold medal win by Korean marathoner Lee Bong-Ju would signify the country's successful participation in the Olympics. Korea on the whole had great expectations for the men's marathon, and as such, Lee was able to break away from the Kolon team and run as an independent runner with special financial support. He also had the full backing of the Korean Amateur Athletic Federation (KAAF). With Samsung at the head of the KAAF, it designated a special Samsung Electronics-sponsored marathon team to highlight Lee's potential to win the gold and even sent a special delegation of four analysts to Sydney in May, including the director of the team and the general secretary of the federation, to inspect the proposed course.

In spite of the support and investment, Korea's performance in the marathon utterly failed to maintain the Olympic glory begun by Sohn Ki-Jung and Hwang Young-Jo. The failure in the Sydney Olympic Games was due to the lack and inability of the director and coaching staff. The coaching staff, which should have correctly analyzed the course and trained the athletes accordingly, returned from their 9-day trip to Australia and concluded that the course in Sydney was the most difficult ever with series of hills. They concluded that this year's race would be more like a cross-country competition marked by endurance rather than speed.

The marathon team which had traveled to Sydney one month prior to the Olympic Games opening day continued to be optimistic that the Korean team's greater endurance would prove to be the winning formula and lead to the defeat of the speedier African athletes. The coaching staff realized its mistaken analysis when they watched the women's marathon. The marathon team had been training for endurance rather than speed. The situation was made worse as "medal fever" drove the coaches and runners to over-train, leading to muscle fatigue in Jung Nam-Kyun, who was considered a wild card. The Korean runners entered the race in the worst possible physical condition.

The Korean marathon team consisted of three men and one woman who were individually coached by their personal trainers. As such, there was not much interaction between the team-members. The federation, which should have overseen the whole training process, delegated all training responsibilities to the individual coaches and took a back seat. The result was the worst Olympic record ever.