Swimmer earns top S. Korean amateur athlete award

February 25, 2019

 On the strength of her historic gold medal at last year’s Asian Games, swimmer Kim Seo-yeong was honored Monday as the country’s top amateur athlete.

Kim was the recipient of the grand prize at the 24th annual Coca-Cola Sports Awards. The 24-year-old received 10 million won (US$8,900) in prize money.

South Korean swimmer Kim Seo-yeong gives an acceptance speech after winning the grand prize at the 24th annual Coca-Cola Sports Awards in a ceremony in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2019. (Yonhap)
Winners at the 24th annual Coca-Cola Sports Awards pose for a group photo in a ceremony in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2019. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Sept. 1, 2018, South Korean boxer Oh Yeon-ji celebrates with the national flag after winning a gold medal in the women's 60-kilogram division at the 18th Asian Games at Jakarta International Expo Hall in Jakarta. (Yonhap)

South Korean swimmer Kim Seo-yeong gives an acceptance speech after winning the grand prize at the 24th annual Coca-Cola Sports Awards in a ceremony in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2019. (Yonhap)

Kim captured the gold medal in the women’s 200-meter individual medley at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta last August. Her time of 2:08.34 was both the South Korean national record and the Asian Games competition record. Kim added a silver in the 400m individual medley.

Kim became the first South Korean swimmer to win an Asian Games gold since Park Tae-hwan won three gold medals and Jeong Da-rae added another in 2010.

Before Kim, the last South Korean to win an individual medley title in the Asian Games was Choi Yun-hui in the women’s 200m in 1982.

“I am grateful for such a big award. I don’t even know if I deserve it,” Kim said in accepting her trophy. “This will be a huge boost to my confidence at the start of the new season.”

Kim is scheduled to make her 2019 debut in the first round of the national team trials starting Friday. She has her sights set on the 2019 world championships, to be hosted by the South Korean city of Gwangju in July.

“I don’t just want to be the top swimmer in Asia; I want to go up against the best of the world,” Kim added. “I’ll try to be an athlete who always gives her best.”

Oh Yeon-ji, who brought South Korea its first Asian Games gold in women’s boxing, and Lee Dae-hoon, the first taekwondo fighter ever to win three straight Asiad titles, received honors in the individual athlete category.

The top disabled athlete was Lee Do-yeon, who grabbed two gold medals in the women’s para cycling at last year’s Asian Para Games.

The national fencing team, which swept up 15 medals, including six gold, at the Asian Games, was named the Team of the Year. Kim Hak-bum, who coached South Korea to their second straight Asiad title in men’s football in Indonesia, was named the Coach of the Year.

Table tennis player Cho Dae-seong, a 16-year-old sensation who won two silver medals at the national championships, and gymnast Yeo Seo-jeong, the Asian Games women’s vault champion, were named the best young athletes.

The organizers also handed out two special awards. One went to the women’s canoeing national team for its combined Asiad gold medal in dragon boat racing with North Korea.

The other went to late cyclist Lee Min-hye, a two-time Asian Games champion who passed away last November.

Coca-Cola has been presenting its annual awards to the country’s top amateur athletes since 1995. Previous winners include Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, Olympic marathon gold medalist Hwang Young-cho and four-time Olympic shooting champion Jin Jong-oh.

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