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Lack of Star Coaches and Government Support

Posted May. 16, 2007 07:52,   


“While the men’s Korean ping pong team can win a gold medal, I’m not sure about the rest of the teams.”

Elisa Lee is the secretary general of Korea National Training Center (KNTC) and is also the Korean women’s table tennis hero. Lee led her team to the gold in the 32nd World Table Tennis Championships in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on April 10, 1973. It was the first gold for a Korean women’s team in ball-playing sports. At that time, her team consisting of Jeong Hyeon-sook and Park Mi-ra beat its Japanese counterparts 3-1 in the finals.

The hero expects that it will be difficult for Korean ping pong teams to rise to the top at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She adds that it will be fortunate if the Korean women team reaches the semifinals. According to her, a lack of famous coaches is the main reason for the poor performance.

Lee said, “Kim Ho-cheol, the coach of the Hyundai Capital volleyball team, once said, ‘I was a star player. If you do not follow my rules, leave the team.’ Such a coach should exist in many sports, and competition should be intense. But that does not hold in reality.”

She also points out that the Korean government has not invested enough to develop former players into coaches and to strengthen physical education in schools.

A case in point is the establishment of Nest Generation Sport Talent (NEST) pursued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which came under fire due to redundant project planning. Lee said, “NEST was incorporated into Korea Sports Council. However, with a revision of the council’s articles, it could bring about another controversy. The issue could be easily resolved if the government directly gives financial aid to the council.”

Lee has improved the conditions for athletics and coaches. In 2005, she extended training period from an annual 105 days to 180 days since assuming the presidency of the center. She also increased compensations for coaches.

Lee put on a big smile and said, “During the remaining two years of my tenure, I will support the improvement of conditions, and then I will return to coaching on the court.”