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Late Coach Lifts Female Weightlifters to Olympic Glory

Posted August. 18, 2008 06:45,   


While Korean weightlifter Jang Mi-ran was breaking the world record on her way to a gold medal in over-75-kilogram women`s weightlifting competition, a paper bag was in a waiting room Saturday.

Women’s national team coach Oh Seung-woo brought it with him. A carefully folded piece of traditional Korean paper was in the bag.

Oh said, “This is the paper that covered the mortuary urn of Kim Dong-hee, a former coach who died of cancer in April.”

Kim, who led the national team when Jang won a silver in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was the godmother of female weightlifters. Considered a caring older sister for tired athletes, she was also seen as the best teacher for those who did not show significant improvement.

Kim was a coach who balanced practice and theory by studying at the Korea National Sports University to finish her master’s and doctoral degrees.

While lying in bed in the hospital after being diagnosed with cancer, she did not want her athletes to visit her because she wanted them to train. Her students came anyway.

Kim died April 1 at the age of 36.

“Doctors said she`d survive at least three months. She must have died early because she wanted her students to train more,” said Oh in a shaking voice as he took out the paper.

Yoon Jin-hee, 22, who won the silver in the women`s 53-kilogram competition last week, shed tears thinking of Kim after her win. Yoon lost her parents when young and was raised by her grandmother, but Kim was like her mother.

In 2000, Yoon met Kim when she began weightlifting in the eighth grade.

Kim was born in Busan and graduated from Korea National Sports University. She made the national weightlifting team, and later showed her knack for leading young female weightlifters with her solid theory and carefulness.

She remained single and gave most of her salary to her students, even buying expensive traditional herbal medicine as a supplement for Yoon to help keep her weight.

Oh plans to burn the paper at Yongdu Temple on Jeju Island or a Buddhist temple in Busan where Kim used to visit with team members when he comes back to Korea. “Kim loved sea,” Oh said.

Kim prepared a tailor-made program for four athletes who were to compete in the Olympics according to their personalities. Specific advice was written about how to best prepare for the competition starting from the day before the competition.

Kim failed to come to Beijing. Instead, as a piece of paper, she watched Yoon and Jang compete.

In the final, Jang lifted the barbell with no difficulty and no mistake as if someone from heaven was helping her.