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Runner Aims for Marathon Gold

Posted January. 07, 2006 03:00,   


Ji Yeong-jun (25, Kolon) is a Korean marathon hopeful. He is currently training on a small Japanese island called Tokunoshima in Kagoshima prefecture, sweating to reach the goal of his life.

His goal is to break the Korean national record (two hours, seven minutes and 20 seconds) in the 2006 Seoul International Dong-A Marathon that will be held on March 12 and then win the gold in the Asian Games that will be held in Doha, Qatar in December.

“I want to erase last year from my memory. I suffered an injury, and the team’s atmosphere wasn’t good either. I wish to forget all that and go forward.”

Ji became a Korean marathon hopeful after taking third place in the national rankings with his record of two hours, eight minutes and 43 seconds in the 2003 Seoul International Marathon. However, he ended up in 17th place in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and ran into another misfortune last year when he injured his ankle and wasn’t able to run a full course. There was also some emotional stress caused by the trouble he had with the coaching staff that ended in the replacement of the team’s coach with a Japanese coach named Nagata Koichi.

Ji struggled to overcome these difficulties and has been training consistently under the guidance of Coach Nagata ever since. Being 25, the realization hit him that if he fails to step one foot forward now, he won’t be able to step up to the world stage ever again.

“This is the time to put up or shut up. I must win gold at the Asian Games. I must.”

Ji regained his pace when he won the 5,000 meters men’s race at the National Sports Festival last October, with the handsome record of 14:03:94. He then started his winter training to try for full courses. Since December 18, he has been running 40 to 50 kilometers everyday in the Kagoshima Prefecture, where Japanese female marathon legend Takahashi Naoko once trained.

The first challenge he faces in realizing his dream is the Seoul International Marathon. Ji is determined to replace the national record set by Lee Bong-ju (36, Samsung Electronics) in 2000, and rise to the top as a contender on the world stage. Ji gets one step closer to his goals everyday under the guidance of Coach Nagata, a highly regarded figure in the marathon world, who is responsible for training many heroes of Japanese marathon such as Kai Tomoko, the bronze medalist in the 1998 Asian Games.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com