The Tokyo Olympics ended on Sunday. Korea earned six gold medals in total, which was the least number of medals in 37 years after the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. But all Korean athletes showed us a spirit more valuable than a medal and moved Korean citizens. Koreans applauded not only the medalists, but also those who did not earn a medal but did their best until the very last moment.
The women’s volleyball team demonstrated what ‘one team’ is. Korea ranked four in women’s volleyball after losing to Serbia by 0-3 in the bronze medal match held on Sunday. Kim Yeon-koung who had her last Olympics showed leadership in every critical moment and all players did not give up and threw themselves even in moments when they were losing. As a result, they defeated the arch rival Japan and even Turkey, a stronger team, which deeply moved Korean citizens.
Woo Sang-hyuk garnered attention by securing the fourth place in men’s high jump. He ranked fourth with the record of 2.35 meters. He renewed Korea’s 24-year-old record, which is the best record except marathon. “Good things will come to me if I just forget it and try again,” he spoke of new hope with a big smile even though he missed a medal, which his fans praised for.
Jeon Woong-tae earned a valuable bronze medal in modern pentathlon, an unchartered territory for Korea, on Saturday. “Korea finally left a footprint for the first time in 56 years (57 years in fact). I am glad Korea’s flag is hoisted in the sky of Japan,” he said and shed tears. “I want to let others know about modern pentathlon,” he said, choked with emotion as an athlete of an unpopular sports.
There were beautiful losses as well. Athletes did their best for fair competition and accepted the result in a mature manner. Taekwondo star Lee Dae-hun put his thumb up after losing to Zhao Shuai of China in the bronze medal match of the men’s 68kg event. Cho Gu-ham held the victor’s hand high after winning a silver medal in men’s 100kg judo.
The national women’s archery team that won a landslide victory in nine consecutive matches and the men’s sabre team that won a gold medal by moving faster with their feet surprised the world, too. Korea won no gold medal in traditionally strong fields including taekwondo, judo and wrestling. But it put up a good fight in basic fields such as athletics, swimming and gymnastics, which showed the possibility of balanced development. In the 17-day festival, 232 Korean athletes and 50 million citizens came altogether and saw the hope and potential of Korea’s sports.