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True mentor has been behind jumping ‘smile boy’

Posted August. 03, 2021 07:13,   

Updated August. 03, 2021 07:13


“As a great athlete, he deserves a better coach,” said Kim Do-kyun in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo on Monday, the national team’s coach for male high jumper Woo Sang-hyeok, 25, who hit a new track-and-field record of South Korea in 24 years. “Woo gained stardom. It is time to get him trained by a greater expert,” the coach said. “I do not want to get in his way.” Kim implied that he will leave Woo soon.

Mr. Kim sat apart from the new track-and-field star to be seated in a corner in a press conference held at the Tokyo Olympic Village on Monday as if he tried to distance himself from Woo physically and emotionally. Woo looked calmer than the previous day when he grinned brightly all the way during his performance. Woo showed a great determination to define it as only a beginning, saying, “I am still a work in progress.

In retrospect, Kim has always directed his attention to lower-performing athletes than those outstanding. “I am willing to help athletes who have a hard time. Although they do not make it for the better, I feel content about every step taken along the path to helping them out,” Kim said. “Famous athletes have easy access to any kind of help that they may seek. I hope to stay with minors who are not able to stand on their feet.”

That is why Kim chose Woo to help out. Woo got the right foot stuck by a taxi at age eight to make it smaller in size than the left one by 1.5 centimeters. Being 188 centimeters high, he is small in stature for a high jumper. Back in 2019, he had a shin splint, putting his professional career at risk. Diving into the sea of frustrations, he skipped trainings and drank almost every day. However, Kim did not give up encouraging the young athlete to stand back, saying, “You have no idea how many merits and strengths you already have in yourself. You can become one of the world’s most famous athletes.”

The coach shared a greater amount of love and support with Woo than his family did. He rented a room to live with Woo in Incheon. After they had training sessions, they spent the rest of the day together. They maintained their routine in preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. The coach bought beds for Woo and pole jumper Jin Min-seob in a room as small as 23 square meters. They woke up and went to bed together.

The South Korean record-breaking athlete is headed toward the goal of jumping 50 centimeters or more above his own height – the Holy Grail for high jumpers. “My next goal is to jump 2.38 meters, 50 centimeters higher than my height,” Woo said. “Once I reach it, I can set a higher goal.”

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