Study time almost over for Olympic team

January 27, 2014
Korea’s largest-ever delegation of 66 athletes, including Lee Sang-hwa, left, and Kim Yuna, will unfold what they have prepared at the Sochi Olympics, where more than 2,500 athletes from 88 countries will compete. Korea will be represented in every sport except for ice hockey for the first time.

Korea’s largest-ever delegation of 66 athletes, including Lee Sang-hwa, left, and Kim Yuna, will unfold what they have prepared at the Sochi Olympics, where more than 2,500 athletes from 88 countries will compete. Korea will be represented in every sport except for ice hockey for the first time.

By Jung Min-ho

With the Sochi Winter Olympics just 10 days away, preparation time is almost over for Korean athletes who will arrive at the Black Sea resort town burdened by expectations for a historic medal haul.18-03(33)

A record 66 Korean athletes have qualified for the upcoming Olympics, 18 more than the 48 the country sent to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Games. They have been facing mounting pressure for an impressive performance in Sochi, where the country aims at winning at least four gold medals and add to the build-up for the 2018 Games to be held at the Korean ski town of PyeongChang, Gangwon Province.

Twenty-eight Koreans will compete in the speed and figure skating events, 16 in sledding events and 15 in skiing events. Five Korean women will compete in curling and the country will also send two biathlon athletes. Ice hockey will be the only sport in Sochi where Koreans will not be participating.

While Korea has previously produced Olympic champions in speed skating and figure skating, Sochi represents really the first time the country will make a serious attempt at earning its stripes in snow.

Won Yun-jong leads a group of Korean bobsledders, while the female curling team hopes to build on its impressive semifinal berth at the 2012 world championships.

Freestyle skier Choi Jae-woo and snowboarder Kim Ho-jun want to blaze trails in the men’s moguls and half-pipe, respectively.

The goal of four gold medals may prove to be difficult. Although Korea won six gold medals in Vancouver, that was when the country was still dominating short-track speed skating, where the competition has developed parity in the last couple of years.

Korea’s pair of “ice queens” — figure skating star Kim Yu-na and speed skating standout Lee Sang-hwa — are favored to repeat as Olympic champions, but the country’s other medal contenders are facing close competitions in their sports.

However, the country does expect to improve on its overall medal haul of 14 from Vancouver with its athletes appearing in a broader set of competitions.

Security issues

Concerns about safety at Sochi reached new heights on Jan. 19 when a video posted on a well-known Jihadi forum website threatened visitors to the Games.

Kim Jae-youl, president of the Korea Skating Union (KSU) and head of the delegation, said the Korean Olympic Committee will ensure the delegation’s safety in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Intelligence Service.

In the video, two men, believed to be suicide bombers who died in December, say, “We’ve prepared a present for you and all tourists who’ll come over. If you will hold the Olympics, you’ll get a present from us for the Muslim blood that’s been spilled.”

Kim said he “acknowledges that many are concerned about their safety.”

“The Russian government has reinforced the security in the region with more than 30,000 police and interior ministry troops,” he noted.

Two terrorists from the North Caucasus carried out bombings in December in the city of Volgograd — less than 700 kilometers from Sochi — killing 32 people.

The Korean delegation was told Thursday about the possible terrorism situation at the Games.

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