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Korean Gymnasts Find Unity in Doha

Posted December. 08, 2006 08:36,   


It was after 12:00 a.m. on November 27 when a Qatar Airlines flight with Korean gymnasts heading for the 15th Asian Games in Doha on board landed in Shanghai, China for a stopover. A few North Korean gymnasts boarded the flight in Shanghai.

It became quite busy and energetic immediately after they were on board. Gymnasts and coaches from both South and North Korea were busy asking each other how they have been.

“Did you have enough discipline?” asked South Korean gymnast. “I barely had any discipline because it was so cold,” one of North Korean players answered with a little exaggeration. Yang Tae-yeong made a joke, saying, “(Ri) Jong Seong talks to me without any respect although he is younger than me. He is just like that.”

They came to Doha together and the South and North Korean teams acted as if they were one team in Doha. Both coaching staffs gathered in the evening to draw up strategies.

Their common aim was to win over China. China won 11 gold medals in 14 events in the Busan Games in 2002. South Korea and North Korea, which were the home teams, won just 5 gold medals.

It was expected that China would win in these Asian Games as well. However, South and North Korean gymnasts were just as strong as the Chinese.

Individual matches started on December 5. Kim Su-myeon of South Korea and Jo Jeong Cheol of North Korea got 15.375 points in the finals of the pommel horse and achieved gold medals with Hiroyuki Tomita together.

Both the South and North Korean teams gave big applause to Kim Soo-myun and Jo Jeong Cheol, who were standing at the podium side by side. When Hong Su Jeong of North Korea won a gold medal in the female uneven bars, both teams became in the festive mood.

South Korean players shouted, “Fighting, fighting!” when a North Korean gymnast was on the mat; North Korean gymnasts encouraged South Koreans by saying “Go, go!” in Korean.

The last individual matches were held on December 6. Ri Se Gwang from North and Kim Dae-eun from South added more gold medals to the list on the pommel horse and parallel bars.

China took 11 gold medals, but South and North Korea won 5 gold medals and prevented China’s sweep.

After the final game on December 6, both teams’ players hugged and congratulated each other. North Korean Ri Man Seop, who is a referee and a couch of Bae Gil Su, a gold medalist in the pommel horse in the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992, said with delight, “Both teams made it by harmonizing North Korea’s sincerity with South Korea’s strength and passion. If North and South Korea cooperate, there is no big difference from the level of China.”