Posted September. 04, 2008 09:27,
Two Korean athletes made their Olympic debuts last month in Beijing.
They failed to advance to the main rounds, let alone earn medals. A huge change followed, however, after they blazed a new path in Korean sports.
Choi Jun-sang, 30, advanced to the Olympics on his own in equestrian, a first for a Korean athlete in 20 years. Shin Su-ji, 17, represented Korea for the first time in 16 years in rhythmic gymnastics.
They said most Koreans would never have heard of them had they failed to advance to the Olympics and not drawn media coverage. Koreans have begun to understand their two sports and see them differently as a result.
○ Experience turns into confidence
Choi finished 46th among 47 competitors, and would have finished dead last had one not given up in the middle.
He said his debut filled him with confidence, however. With his experience, he said he now knows how to improve and perform better.
There are lots of excellent guys around me. I can team up with them and train in the future, he said.
Also aiming for the 2012 London Olympics, he said he prepared for Beijing by spending 11 months overseas. His voice, however, exuded happiness and confidence.
He returned to Korea Monday to see a changed attitude toward equestrian by the Korean public.
I dont think its all because of me. Still, I noticed higher public interest in equestrian when I visited a competition recently, he said.
○ Im happy for those who are happy for me.
Shin finished 12th out of 24 competitors, failing to make the top 10 and advance into the final rounds.
A couple of days ago, she said she received a letter from a 20-something prison inmate who was moved enough by Shins Olympic performance to attend college.
Its wonderful to know that my performance has motivated someone to have a dream. I feel more refreshed and more motivated to realize there are such people around me, she said.
Shin has signed up with a sports marketing firm that will finance her overseas training and participation in tournaments for the next three years.
People have begun noticing her on the street and fan mail is starting to come in. She said she feels more responsibility as a result.
I will do more and win a medal next time, she said.