Go to contents

Now, Gold Medal in Upcoming Olympics

Posted February. 05, 2003 23:04,   


"What I`m aiming at is winning a gold medal in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics."

Men`s 1,000m speed skating race held yesterday at Nikane Ice Rink, as part of the 5th Aomori Winter Asian Games. Lee Gyu-hyuk was all smiles after winning the gold medal in the race by beating Simizu by 0.05 second. By this, he won two gold medals in this Games. Previously, he came in first in the 1500m race.

Lee had failed to win a medal in major events. Thus, he has earned a nickname: Man of Misfortune. This time, he broke the spell on him. When talking about his dream aiming at the Winter Olympics to be held in 3 years, his face turned red out of joy and excitement.

Skating runs in Lee`s family. His father Lee Ik-hwan (57) was a former national speed skater. His mother, Lee In-sook (47, Figure skating judge), coached the South Korean women`s figure skating team in `99 Winter Asian Games. His brother Gyu-hyun is also participating in his family.

He first broke the world record for 1,000m speed skating in `97 World Cup Speed Skating Championship. Again in 2001, he broke his own world record. Thus, everyone believed that it was a matter of time for Lee to stand on top in the Olympics.

Despite his excellent skills, he failed to demonstrate himself in the major international competitions. In 1999, for example, he lost the gold medal to his junior player Choi Jae-bong in the Winter Asian Games. Even worse, he ranked just at 8th in the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, USA.

Therefore, this was the last time for Lee to break the spell on him. If he had failed to win a gold medal, he should have had to join the army to finish the mandatory military service. This factor may have motivated him in part. Armed with determination and spirits for victory, he built up his leg muscles by running 40,000m (or approximately 25,000 miles) a day, and went over to Canada last year for training purposes. All throughout this hard regimen, his coach Jaegal Sung-ryul was with him. Lee has teamed up with Jaegal for three years. The two medals in this game resulted from the sweats of Lee.

That is why Lee attributed his success to his coach in an interview after the race. He said, "I got dismissed from the national team three years ago. I had to go through all the hardships. No one would treat me with respect. But Mr. Jaegal was always with me. Without him, I would not have achieved what I have now. I think I should present one of the medals to him."

One day prior to the 1,500m race, or on Feb. 2nd, a severe flu almost killed him. Nonetheless, taking an IV, he decided to test his limit, and he won the gold medal in the race. Then, in the 1,000m race, he grabbed his second medal.

Breaking the spell on him, Lee confidently said, "I got off to a good start. Turning around the corner, I felt I was doing good. I was pretty sure I would get the gold medal. But, this is not the end of the story. I will show more. In the upcoming Torino Olympics, I will top the world."

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com