Rio gold cements S. Korean shooter’s legacy

August 10, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) — With an impressive rally to take the 50m pistol gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Wednesday, South Korean marksman Jin Jong-oh added another chapter to his growing legacy.

Jin scored an Olympic record 193.7 points in the taut final to beat Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam by 2.4 points.

The victory was historic on many levels. It made Jin the first shooter, male or female, to win a single event at three Olympics in a row. He’s also the first South Korean athlete to win a gold at three consecutive Olympics, winter or summer.

Jin has won four gold and two silver medals, which tie him with former archer Kim Soo-nyung for most Olympic medals by a South Korean. Jin and Kim are also tied for the lead with four gold medals.

Jin almost never even got to the position to contend for gold on Wednesday, because he reached the brink of elimination after 10 shots.

Following the eighth shot, the shooter with the lowest aggregate score is eliminated, and further elimination is determined every two shots until two shooters remain. Jin ranked sixth through 10 shots, and if not for Vladimir Gontcharov’s collapse over the next two shots — 7.8 and 9.2, to Jin’s 10.4 and 10.3 — the South Korean would have been left with plenty of “what-ifs.”

South Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh holds up his gold medal from the men's 50m pistol at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 10, 2016.

South Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh holds up his gold medal from the men’s 50m pistol at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 10, 2016.

And Jin put himself in that hole with a disastrous 6.6 with his ninth shot. In the entire final, where the maximum score is 10.9, it was the only bullet that ended in the 6s. Such a score is especially rare in an Olympic final featuring only the sharpest shooters of the world.

Jin must have had some flashbacks in that moment, for it wasn’t the first time he scored in the 6s with an Olympic medal at stake.

In the 50m pistol final at the 2004 Athens Games, Jin blew his lead with a 6.9 on his seventh shot and ended up settling for silver medal.

That he bounced back four years later in Beijing to finally capture the gold medal is a testament as much to his mental fortitude as to his world-class skills.

Four years ago in London, Jin also needed a late rally to defend his Beijing title in the 50m.

Trailing teammate Choi Young-rae by 1.6 points with one bullet left, Jin scored a 10.2 to Choi’s 8.1 to win by half a point.

Now 36, Jin has pretty much seen it all in his sport, be it suffering a heartbreaking collapse or breaking others’ hearts. And with at least a medal in his fourth straight Olympics, Jin has little left to accomplish in shooting.

Two months ago, Jin said he doesn’t see Rio as his last hurrah, and he still has a few more things he’d like to accomplish before calling it quits.

Then at Wednesday’s press conference for medalists, Jin reiterated that he’s not going anywhere.

“Some people say I should step aside and make room for younger shooters, but I wish they’d refrain from saying that,” Jin said. “I absolutely love shooting, and I want to engage in fair competitions. To tell me to retire is to take the love of my life away from me.”

Eventually, Jin will leave the sport. And when that time comes, Jin will do so knowing his place in Olympic history is quite secure.