Updated February. 25, 2014 04:42
A Korean national flag is both a tremendous honor and large pressure to archers in the Summer Olympics and short track speed skaters in the Winter Olympics.
It is often said that it is more difficult to become part of the national team than win a medal in the Olympics in the two events. Even after winning a silver medal, the player makes an apology for not winning a gold medal. It might seem weird to foreigners. The players obsession for a gold medal is much more serious than what ordinary people think.
Male short track speed skaters failed to win a gold medal in the Sochi Winter Olympics, which ended on Monday. Not to mention a gold medal, they failed to win a bronze even. One can easily imagine how much they would have suffered.
They were not welcomed even before the Olympics. They were overshadowed by Ahn Hyun-soo (Viktor Ahn in Russian) who became a Russian citizen. They were under criticism after it was falsely rumored that Ahn changed his citizenship because the political fight in the Korean skating community. They passed the difficult selection process like a camel going through the eye of a needle to be part of the national team, but they were the least welcomed group of athletes in Korean history.
As Ahn won a gold medal and showed successful performance, they got more hurt. They got anxious about a gold medal, and their uneasiness made them go overboard. They made mistakes and some were disqualified. Even Ahn said, They did nothing wrong. They worked hard. It was very hard for me to see people compare my results and Korean skaters results.
Ahn said in an official press conference that he chose a Russian citizenship because Russia offered a better environment for him. Ahn who suffered knee injury in 2008 badly needed patience that can wait for him until he makes recovery. Korea could not wait for him but Russia did. As a result, he gave three gold medals and one bronze to Russia, helping the country to top the Olympic Games.
Now, the days are gone when Koreas short track speed skating was the worlds best. Many Korean coaches went abroad and its knowhow has been long gone. Foreign players who are powerful and good physique absorb Koreas knowhow like a sponge through Korean coaches.
Like Ahns case, what Korean athletes need is waiting. Korean male short track speed skaters worked really hard. They worked hard together and sweated like a bull even though other people did not recognize them.
The criticism on them can lead to another Ahn. They need time to stand up again. They also need warm encouragement for their efforts.
They will return to Korea on Tuesday with the national team on Tuesday. A warm round of applause is badly needed for those who stand behind the medalists.