Sport & Culture

South Korea’s Olympic Success

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Sport & Culture

South Korea’s Olympic Success

Seoul exceeded its own expectations at this year’s Olympics. Expect that to continue in 2016.

South Korea is looking back with pride at a job well done at the 2012 Olympics.

Before the London games, the target set by the country was simple: 10/10. This referred to ten gold medals and a place in the top ten in the final standings.

So thirteen golds and a ranking of fifth has been hailed as very welcome in Seoul with the country finishing above Germany, France and well above Australia and regional rivals Japan.

This was no flash in the pan however as the country also took home 13 golds in Beijing four years ago.

Lee Ki Heung, the nation's chef de mission in London, gave a little detail as to how it was done.

"The reason we believe that we have been able to achieve such a great performance is thanks to the strong support of the Korean people and also the effort and commitment of the athletes and the coaching staff during the past four years," Lee said.

A month-long training camp at Brunel University also did the trick according to Lee.

 "This is the best thing we have done at these Olympics as a delegation," he said. "The training base allowed athletes to train with proper partners, served them delicious and nutritious Korean food, and offered medical care. We will look to open a similar camp for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro."

It all costs money of course and the private and public sectors are happy to cough up.

According to Korea’s Olympic chief, Y.S. Park, the government invests around $100 million a year and this, coupled with significant support that certain sports get from private companies, makes for a productive sports environment.

There is also the intense training and hard work that athletes are prepared to put in. The fact that men are exempt from a two-year period of mandatory military service if they receive a medal also helps when it comes to motivation.

Korea is a competitive country and is already fretting about what will happen in 2016 and warning that the nation must diversify in the sports it excels in. Expect this to happen.

Some reports even put the Korean skill in archery down to chopsticks and Korean food. Korean chopsticks are long, thin and metallic and harder to handle than those in China or Japan.

Korean women have won 14 out of the 15 team and individual gold medals in the event since 1984. They have won every team gold since it was introduced in Seoul 1988.

Baek Woong-ki, the coach of the archery team agrees with this theory.

"Some medical experts call it 'chopstick skills.' It's true. Our athletes have an incredible sense of touch in their fingers. They tend to know where the arrow will hit, the moment it leaves their hands."

 “…Our athletes have sensitive fingers enabling them to sense delicate touches, which are inherited from tradition."