Korea 60th nation to enter stadium

By 신용배
  • Published : Feb 8, 2014 - 02:46
  • Updated : Feb 9, 2014 - 09:44

South Korea will be represented by its largest Winter Games delegation, with 71 athletes and 49 officials. The country will participate in every sport except ice hockey.

South Korean athletes enter the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Friday. (Yonhap)
Veteran speed skater Lee Kyou-hyuk, competing in his sixth Olympics, served as a flag bearer for South Korea at the ceremony.

He has participated in more Olympics than any other South Korean.

Under the official name the Republic of Korea, South Korea was the 60th nation to enter the stadium, according to the alphabetical order of its name in Russian.

South Korea has set out to capture at least four gold medals and finish in the top 10 in the medal count for the sixth time in seven Winter Games. In Vancouver four years ago, South Korea picked up six gold medals, tying its Winter Olympics record set in Turin in 2006, and won its all-time Winter Games high of 14 medals overall.

Two defending Olympic champions are considered heavy favorites to repeat in Sochi. Figure skater Kim Yu-na, who won the gold in Vancouver with a world record score of 228.56 points, will try to become only the third woman to repeat as an Olympic figure skating champion.

A foot injury last September threatened to derail Kim's Olympic preparation, but she bounced back to win a competition in Croatia in December and the South Korean national championship in January.

Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa is the world record holder in the women's 500 meters and the 2010 Olympic champion in that distance has been virtually unbeatable in the past two seasons. She set her first record in January last year and broke it three times in November alone.

Shim Suk-hee, a 17-year-old short track phenom, is regarded as the top contender in the women's 1,000m and 1,500m, and could also help South Korea win the 3,000m relay title.

South Korea has won Winter Olympics medals only in ice sports.

Though the trend may continue this time, up-and-coming athletes in other sports will try to blaze trails.

South Koreans in bobsleigh, luge and skeleton have made major strides in 2013, winning international races and securing multiple spots for Sochi. Young sledders will get their feet wet in Russia and will be hoping to reach the podium by the next Winter Olympics in South Korea's PyeongChang in 2018.

The women's curling team will make its Olympic debut here after making a surprising run to the semifinals at the 2012 world championships.

Freestyle skier Choi Jae-woo in the men's moguls and snowboarder Kim Ho-jun in the men's halfpipe are other new faces hoping to make their mark.