For many athletes, the Olympics are the dream of a lifetime. Since the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed by a year due to the spread of COVID-19, the South Korean Olympic team, who has been preparing for the Olympics for the past five years, looked more determined than ever to fulfill their expectations at the Olympics.
At a Media Day event on Wednesday, Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KOC) President Lee Kee-heung said he will spare no support for the athletes so that they can only focus on the games without being affected by external factors. The KOC assured athletes that they will be fully supported without having to worry about external factors, such as COVID-19 and radiation.
President Lee and other high-ranking sports officials, however, did not know about the COVID-19 vaccination plan for the athletes, including the exact schedule, which is directly related to the athletes’ performance at the Olympics. Shin Chi-yong, director of the national training center in Jincheon, said the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism or the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet given any guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination. Jang In-hwa, head of the South Korean Olympic team, said vaccination can only be conducted under government guidelines. KOC President Lee said vaccination was originally scheduled in mid-Apr. but he was told that it would take some time before getting the vaccination after the blood clotting issue with the AstraZeneca vaccine had been found. He added the timing of the vaccination will soon be set but did not clarify if the KOC is consulting with the government over the vaccination plan.
Under the special situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, athletes seemed more passionate than ever. “We’ve been affected a lot by the pandemic. There was only one gymnastics competition last year. Since there was no competition, many athletes, including myself lost their sense of purpose,” said Yang Hak-seon, the London Olympic gold medalist in men’s vault. “But as the saying goes, humans are the most adaptive species and we have adapted to the current situation,” said Yang. “With only 100 days to go until the Olympics, my goal is to do well in Tokyo like I did in London. We expect many medals in gymnastics since we have so many prospects.”
“It is a shame that I could not get a chance to improve my weakness since there were no competitions due to COVID-19. But it was nice to have more time to practice,” said Shin Yoo-bin, a member of South Korea’s women’s table tennis team who will be competing in her first Olympics in Tokyo.