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‘I am happy to promote women’s volleyball,’ says Kim in tears

‘I am happy to promote women’s volleyball,’ says Kim in tears

Posted August. 09, 2021 07:22,   

Updated August. 09, 2021 07:22


“Today’s match may be the last one of my career as part of the national team,” said Captain Kim Yeon-koung of the South Korean women’s volleyball national team who paused even twice while speaking calmly with a face-mask on in an interview. It has been 17 years since Kim joined the national team in 2004 when she was a high school junior. It is time to say goodbye to the Taegeuk flag of South Korea on the chest.

The South Korean women’s volley ball athletes, ranking 11th in the world, fought for a medal at the Olympic Games in 45 years since their seniors earned a bronze medal in the Montreal Olympics in 1976. However, as South Korea lost to Serbia by 0 to 3 (18-25, 15-25, 15-25) in the bronze medal match at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on Sunday, it has ended up having to wait for the next Olympics.

Although not standing on the Olympic podium, the South Korean women’s volleyball team showed an outstanding level of performance. In the quarterfinal with Turkey, which ranks 4th in the world, the South Korean team achieved an unexpected win to rise to the top four in nine years. Added to this, when it was lagging behind Japan by 12-14 in the 5th set, it boosted morale to come from behind to end up with a victory. As wished by Captain Kim that she would love to stay as long as possible in Tokyo, the South Korean women's volleyball team had a match on Sunday when the closing ceremony was held, perking up the rest of the national team in Tokyo. Indeed, many South Korean athletes thanked the women's volleyball team for helping them do better in competition.

Captain Kim stood out to show a strong determination at her final Olympics. Making it to Olympic matches three times running, she played a main role in the South Korean team by recording the 2nd highest score of 136 and the 4th highest dig of 83 among all the Tokyo Olympic athletes in women's volleyball. She jumped up to make a powerful spike and sled herself on the volleyball court to save the ball. As the leader of the team, she also was an emotional rock of her colleagues. Shortly after the match was over, she said, "My colleagues deserve to smile so I asked them to be all smiles. No one did not expect this much,” showing her contentment in being part of the top four.

Kim suffered a painful injury over the Olympics. Lee Sang-hwa, a trainer who has worked with Kim since she became a pro in 2005, said that he was surprised more by Kim's right knee covered with taping rather than by a bruise on the thigh due to taping. Asked over the phone, Kim said that she has a knee pain as the knee gets shaky, according to Mr. Lee. With a bruise on the thigh making news, Kim appeared with more taping applied to the part seemingly to hide the bruise under the taping. Reportedly, Kim will have a checkup on her health status after she returns to South Korea.

With a contract with South Korea finalized on Sunday, head coach Stefano Lavarini said that he came to realize why Kim is one of the best volleyball legends in history while working with her, adding that he will go back to Italy while remembering Kim as a great leader with charisma.

Hong-Gu Kang windup@donga.com