Now that the Olympics has finished and our lives can go back to normal, we’re sure many of you are feeling a bit deflated. Need one more dose of anything and everything Olympics related? Let us take you through one last overview of how Korea did in the 2012 Olympics.
So many emotions!
Following any sporting event can be an emotional time and while watching the fortunes of the South Korean team we had a ridiculous amount of nervous and ‘sitting on the edge of the seat’ moments. One of the biggest and most memorable emotional roller coaster moments was when Shin A Lam was left sitting by herself, crying, in the middle of the fencing piste for over an hour. After an epee match, where a timer malfunction ultimately led to her losing the match, she had to wait by herself on the piste while her coach went to dispute the result. The debate raged for over an hour as to who should have won the match, and all the while Shin was unable to leave her position or it would mean she accepted her loss. As she sat there in the arena, in relative darkness, while the whole crowd watched her emotional turmoil, you couldn’t help but feel your heart go out to her. She was so brave enduring this hour by herself, but you could tell the whole audience where with her as constant calls of support were sent out to her.
Other moments of emotion and nerves could be found in the archery matches. During the gold medal match of the women’s individual archery, after 5 sets apiece, Ki Bo Bae found herself in a one arrow shoot off situation with opponent Aida Roman of Mexico. One shot, one chance to win the gold! Ki Bo Bae went first, and as her arrow struck a score of 8, you could tell she thought she’d lost it. She turned away, obviously thinking she’s lost the match as Aida Roman had been scoring 9s most of the time. However, to everyone’s surprise, Aida also shot an 8, but further away of the bulls eye, meaning Ki Bo Bae won! The amount of tension during this shoot off was insane. Lord’s Cricket ground was completely silent as these two women took their last shots, but soon huge cheers resounded for Ki’s win.
Emotions, both good and bad, were stirred to the max for the football bronze medal match against Japan. The gold match was overshadowed by the hype about the two countries competing for this medal. The stadium in Cardiff was packed, and support for both countries from the crowds in the stadium was immense. For many people in the UK, some of the tension between Japan and Korea was unknown, but the commentators were billing this match as one filled with a lot of underlying feelings and predicted that players would be sent off sooner or later. Within no time, yellow cards were being handed out and the race to score goals was on. By the time Korea had scored its second goal, time was running out, it seemed clear the bronze was Korea’s. Waiting for these final minutes to tick down felt like forever; could Korea keep their lead, would Japan level the score right at the last minute?! As the last seconds of extra time passed and Korea won, the emotions were clear – Korea was elated and Japan was devastated. It should be said that both sides played really well and at the end of the game handshakes and hugs were exchanged. For both sides, it was hard carrying the pressures of a game where there where other background factors added pressure. There was a bonus for the Korean team in winning this medal – they have been excused from mandatory military service! The Coach was super clever during the game and made sure that all the players had a turn on the pitch so they could say they played in the match and be in for a chance of a medal and exemption. There was one controversial point to this match that came after the game had finished, keep reading to find out all the controversies of the Olympics.
Before these Olympics we’re sure there are many other people out there, like us, who’d never heard of the sport of handball before, but have since become fans! The women’s bronze medal match was so epically tense and emotional that it was hard even watching it! This match against Spain went down to the wire, and had not one, but two sets of extra time. Every time you thought Korea had levelled the score, Spain came back in force and got one ahead. The Korean’s team faces were heart breaking when the match had ended. It was clear how much winning the bronze would have meant for them. However, the Korean women’s handball team is made of stern stuff, and Coach Kang Jae Won is reported to have said “I see this result less as a defeat than an opportunity for our players to gain experience. I think the experience today was just as valuable as winning a gold medal. I hope that the players can build on this and post better results at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro” (quote source). Looking forward to seeing how they do in 2012!
Even when the games finished, the athletes, and citizens who were supporting them, were not without emotional dramas of their own. There was heated discussion when the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) called for medal winners to stay on in London to attend a Korean War Veterans ceremony. People were angry as they saw this as practically forcing the athletes to give up their own time, and in some cases having to re-book air plane tickets home, to attend this event. People argued that injured athletes, some of whom needed surgery, being forced to stay was ridiculous, and that athletes who didn’t win medals but wanted to stay for the ceremony shouldn’t have been forced to go home as they had just as much right to go as medallists. Comments from netizens include such quotes as “The players toiled and moiled for four to 12 years for this one time Olympic event. Don’t insult them and judge them according to your own criteria. Whether obtaining a medal or not, they are all Korea’s representatives. Preventing medallists from homecoming and forcing non-medallists to go home, it is not your money, it’s the taxpayer’s. It is you KOC executives who should come home as soon as possible to save taxpayer’s money,” (quote source). And that’s not the only controversy for South Korea.
As expected in many sporting situations, there are bound to be controversial issues that arise and cause trouble. Even before the official opening to the London 2012 Olympics, the first embarrassing blunder of the games was made during a women’s football match where the South Korean flag was displayed next to the North Korean player’s names. This caused the North Korean team to refuse to start the match, but were later persuaded to come out and play around an hour later.
More controversy was seen on the women’s badminton courts. After some very strange playing from some of the Korean, Chinese and Indonesian teams, it was obvious that they were playing intentionally badly so they could lose. This would mean that they could face easier matches in later knock out rounds. There were boos from the crowds and angry referees were not impressed, and the teams later faced disqualification.
Back to the men’s football bronze medal match. Even though Korea won fair and square over Japan, during their celebrations on the pitch, one member of the squad got himself into a bit of hot water. Park Jong Woo, while celebrating Korea’s win on the pitch, picked up a politically charged banner from a spectator in the crowd. This banner supported Korea’s claim over the Dokdo islands. Political statements from athletes and players are barred by the IOC and FIFA, so Park was banned from taking part in the medal ceremony and has yet to receive his medal. It’s still uncertain whether he will get the medal, as FIFA has to review the case first.
There have also been some more general claims that the London 2012 games have been biased against Korea. Not only did Shin A Lam receive bad treatment in how her match was handled, but Cho Jun Ho’s victory in the Judo quarter-finals was overturned when his opponent’s side put in an appeal. Understandably, Cho was extremely confused and angry at this sudden turn of events. Even right at the beginning of the games, Korean athletes were baffled by strange decisions, like when swimmer Park Tae Hwan was told he was disqualified in the 400m for leaving the blocks early. An appeal overturned this decision, but such mistakes from the judges should never have been made in the first place. Such decisions left many Koreans angry and disappointed, some even calling for a boycott to the games as a whole.
Even with a fair number of controversies in this Olympics, there can be no doubt that the Korean Team did a fantastic job! They really wowed the globe with their sporting prowess and showed us all what they could do. The Korean team has been recognised when it comes to their talents with weaponry, with many of the gold medals coming from the fields of archery and shooting. Jin Jong Oh won two golds for his awesome shooting skills in the 10m air pistol and 50m pistol. This meant that Jin retained his 50m Olympic title, wow! Not only did Jin get the gold in the 50m pistol final, but silver was also taken by a Korean, Choi Young Rae! The men weren’t the only ones bringing in the medals in the shooting department. Kim Jang Mi, the 19 year old shooting genius, took the gold in the women’s 25m pistol. She had nerves of steel and looked so calm and collected all the way through the final. She’s surely got an amazing sporting career ahead of her!
In archery, Korea was kicking some major ass. Koreans have a long history in the Olympics in archery as a nation known for being one of the best. Before this Olympics, Korea topped the all-time medal podium in archery, with having won 30 medals! This year was no different as they reminded the world why they had this formidable reputation. This Olympics, the archery team left with an outstanding three golds and a bronze from the four events they entered.
Before this Olympic games, Korea had only ever won three fencing medals, but this Olympic games took home an astonishing 6, including 2 gold! Although Shin A Lam faced a tough end to her fencing match in her individual bouts, she achieved a bronze medal in the women’s team foil event! The whole team did wonderfully and looked so excited on the podium; they all did a really amazing job to them. The women also had more success with Kim Jiyeon getting the gold in the women’s individual sabre! The men too had amazing success in fencing. In fact, some of the men of the fencing team have now turned us into hardcore fencing fans! The men’s team grabbed the gold in the men’s team sabre, and reacted amazingly to their win with some hilarious antics, which included lots of groups hugs, running around the arena, and general awesome behaviour. What was really lovely about both teams was that when they were so close to winning, they let the reserve have a turn so they too could receive a medal. So beautiful! One of our favourite fencing moments was when the hilarious Choi Byung Chul used his opponents weapon to check his right buttock wasn’t a target area. Choi, we love you! As well as coming away with a lot of laughs, he got the bronze in the men’s individual foil.
Judo and Taekwondo saw a lot of medals, with 3 golds coming from these two disciplines. Hwang Kyung Seon, who won gold in the women’s -67kg taekwondo, is the first woman ever to successfully win three gold medals in taekwondo in successive games! She also maintained her title in the -67kg category. Further success in fighting sports was seen in the very traditional Greco-Roman wrestling, where another gold was obtained! Kim Hyeon Woo, the gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling, has only been doing the sport for two years, and stunned everyone with his win. Kim suffered a pretty impressive black eye, but he fought through the discomfort to win – go Kim Hyeon Woo! Boxing, another physical fighting sport, saw a silver medal being won by underdog Han Soon Chul. South Korea really was ‘Fighting’! (ba-dum-tsk)
The whole of the Korean team did a fabulous job. Although we couldn’t mention everyone here, all competitors put in so much effort and work that they all deserve praise. Many medals were won, but to those athletes who didn’t win medals, they also had so much support and appreciation. All the sportsmen and women had to work so hard to get to the Olympics that they should all gain recognition and be proud of themselves.
On a bit of a light-hearted, silly, and ever so shallow note, while watching the games, the MASSIVE found themselves falling slightly in love with a few of the Korean athletes. In our attempts to cover as many events as possible so we could update everyone on all the events Korea was competing in, we came across a couple of men who stole our hearts and ran off with them (we’re being a bit over dramatic here, but you get the idea :P). Number one on our list of Korean athlete heart throbs is the dreamy Lee Yong Dae! Together with Chung Jae Sung, they won the men’s badminton bronze. We had to admit, we’ve never been so interested in badminton before, and probably never will be, until they play again. Watching Lee Yong Dae sprint around the badminton court in all his glory was beautiful and Chung was an epic master of smashing. We were completely won over by Lee and Chung, and their emotional win in the bronze match had us turning into blubbering wrecks
Next up on our list of athletes who we got a bit keen on is the men’s fencing team. That’s right, we love them all! They were just so funny and adorable that we couldn’t resist their charms. In particular, Choi Byung Chul had us laughing non-stop. His eccentric fencing techniques and humour were constantly keeping us amused, and you couldn’t help but love him. The way he poked himself in the bum to check target markers was just irresistible! We were also very fond of the fencer Jung Jin Sun, and his general cute aura. He also seemed to be quite a funny guy, and we were particularly amused during the medal ceremony when he tried to take his own bunch of flowers before they were presented to him, and when he was stopped, gave a little pout.
Away from the area of fencing, we also spotted a few other male athletes who we paid quite a bit of attention to. Lee Dae Hoon, super cute silver medalist in taekwondo, looks like he just stepped out of an idol group! Looking super perfect in every aspect, we were surprised he could pack such a punch (or kick)! We loved how even at the end of the match, he still looked in pristine condition and how he made sure his lovely curls were all in place.
We’re also giving a special mention to the super awesome Yang Hak Seon. Yang is the first ever Korean athlete to win a gold in the men’s vault, and in fact the first ever Korean to win a gold in any area of gymnastics! He won over many hearts with his performance, and it seems his home life has become a bit of a hot topic too. He became so popular after his extraordinary efforts and winning the gold, people became curious about his past. People soon discovered that he is currently living in what is tantamount to a greenhouse! The fact that his house is made from PVC has made the whole nation want to take him under their wing and look after him. It seems that Yang has such devotion to his parents that he still lives with them, taking care of them. If you want to find out more about this lovely, lovely man, take a look at this link from fellow Korean bloggers Koreabang. His dedication to his sport and family is so heart warming, and we sincerely wish him all the best in the world. We’re getting teary eyed right now thinking about him! We just adore him and truly admire him! He was also the first person we spotted to make a heart sign at the camera. After this, we saw athletes from all nations doing this too. Don’t worry Yang, we know who the trend setter is!
It’s been a fun journey, these last two weeks. The atmosphere around London has been buzzing, and having so many visitors to our capital has been so exciting. We have loved watching Korea complete and do so well. We are all amazed by how much work and dedication each athlete has to put in to getting to the Olympics and have been so pleased at how well everyone’s done. We hope that all of Team Korea has enjoyed their stay in London for the Olympics, and is able to leave with treasured memories. Even though there have been some downs, there have been a huge amount of ups, and wish that the experience of London 2012 has been a good one. Hopefully Team Korea has been able to experience some good sides of British culture and in turn, hopefully the viewers of the Olympics will have been able to learn something about Korean culture. In the end, we would like to think that the Olympics has helped our two nations become closer.
Don’t forget the the Paralympics are heading our way soon. They start on the 29th of August, and Korea will be competing. We’re sure they’ll do amazingly and can’t wait to see all the different events they’ll be in. Details of the Korean team will be available at this link soon.