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Japan Sports Agency commissioner visits Korea for Olympics torch relay

Japan Sports Agency commissioner visits Korea for Olympics torch relay

Posted January. 12, 2018 08:07,   

Updated January. 12, 2018 08:27


“Half of the Olympic gold medals I won belong to Korea.”

Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Daichi Suzuki said he has a special relationship with Korea. This is not just because he won swimming gold medals at the 1986 Seoul Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Suzuki entered Korea Thursday for the sacred torch relay for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. In an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo held at the Korea National Sport University on the same day, he said, “It has been 30 years since I came to this university where I can see the 88 Olympic Swimming Pool and the Athletes’ Village. I feel so emotional.”

He won the 100-meter backstroke gold at the Seoul Olympics. His victory made headlines worldwide as he kicked underwater dolphin for more than 30 meters for over 15 seconds. To mark the first Asian swimmer to win the gold at the Seoul Olympics, The Dong-A Ilbo introduced his story with the headline, “A legend in Seoul, a marvelous hero.” His unique tactic to win the race prompted the International Swimming Federation to ban underwater dolphin kicks for more than 15 meters.

When this story was brought up, Suzuki revealed the behind-the-scenes story. “Thanks to the cooperation of the Korea Swimming Federation, whose chairman back then was former President Lee Myung-bak, I could practice at the Olympic swimming pool from a month before the opening of the Olympics,” he said. “People said the plan was impossible, but it really helped me a lot in winning the gold at the Olympics.”

Suzuki is the first commissioner of the Japan Sports Agency, which was established in 2015. He is currently directing the overall sports policy in Japan and leading the preparation work for the 2020 Tokyo Winter Olympics. “We have three mega sports events coming up in a row including Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Beijing Winter Olympics,” said Suzuki. “It would be very meaningful if the three countries cooperate one another and share know-how so that the events could contribute to the national development.”

He brought the gold medal he won at the Seoul Olympics. Suzuki said the Olympics being held in Korea in 30 years is special to him as well. “I am a swimmer, but I have got a chance run on the roads holding the torch this time,” said Suzuki looking bright and happy. “I will do my best in the cold weather.”

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com