National weightlifter Jang Mi-ran wants to be remembered not only as a great Olympic champion, but also as a role model for young athletes.
With less than six months until the 2012 London Olympics, Jang announced Wednesday the launch of her foundation, the Jang Miran Foundation.
“Since becoming a national weightlifter, I’ve wanted to help less-popular Olympics sports. I’m thrilled the dream has finally come true,” Jang said during a press conference Wednesday in Seoul.
The Jang Miran Foundation is dedicated to “helping young athletes in minor sports,” she said.
In partnership with Visa Korea, the weightlifter’s foundation will set up education programs to nurture young Olympians, and will also provide medical support for the underprivileged families.
Weightlifter Jang Mi-ran poses with Visa Korea president James Dixon after receiving 200 million won for the Jang Mi-ran Foundation in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
Visa, the official sponsor of Olympics, will be helping Jang’s mission by providing a combination of direct funding, expertise and marketing support.
The Visa Korea donated 200 million won ($178,000) Wednesday, and also pledged to provide additional 100 million won to support Jang.
“We’re proud to be the partner of Jang’s foundation,” Visa Korea President James Dixon said.
“Our partnership started last year when Jang became a member of Team Visa, our sponsored Olympic athletes. Her vision is in line with our goal of helping young athletes. We are proud of helping to making this foundation a reality,” he added.
In the past decade, Jang has won more than 10 weightlifting medals, which include 2004 Athens silver, and 2008 Beijing gold medals.
She also wrote a new chapter in Korean sports last year by becoming the first athlete to have won the national championships nine times in a row.
“When I first started weightlifting there wasn’t much support, and the training conditions were poor,” she said.
The soft-spoken athlete admitted many didn’t really know who she was until she won the gold medal in Beijing.
“The conditions for minor sports are better than before, but still more needs to be done,” said the 31-year-old , noting that she believes it’s time for her to give something back to the society.
“All I did was lift the barbell, but I received the generous support and encouragement of so many. I want to involve myself in society and work for the betterment of athletes in lesser known sports.”
But before that her imminent task will be the upcoming Summer Olympics, which kicks off on July 27. Hopes are high for Jang after she won the gold four year ago with a world record.
But Jang said that she expects more than her back-to-back title in London.
“I’m hoping to be an inspiration and encouragement to young athletes, and bring more public interest to our sports,” she added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org