INCHEON -- Former Dutch Olympic speed skating champion Bob de Jong arrived in South Korea on Tuesday to begin his tenure as an assistant coach of the national team here.
The 40-year-old was appointed to the post by the Korea Skating Union on April 26. He will be tasked with working with the skaters for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the first Winter Games to be held in South Korea.
|In this EPA file photo taken on Nov. 22, 2014, Bob de Jong of the Netherlands reacts after winning the men's 10,000m at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating at Taereung International Ice Rink in Seoul. De Jong has been named an assistant coach for the South Korean national speed skating team. (Yonhap)|
"The main goal for now is to help the Korean skaters to the next level and to bring good results from the Olympics," de Jong told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "I have 20 years of experience in skating. I got to train outside the Netherlands and I've lived around. All that experience, I bring to Korea.
Skaters here are really good. Juniors are on a really high level. I think they can take the next step and get to a higher level technically and mentally."
The former long distance specialist brings an impressive competing resume. He counts the men's 10,000m gold at the 2006 Torino Winter Games as one of his four Olympic medals, and he also won seven world titles in the 5,000m and 10,000m.
De Jong competed at five consecutive Olympic Games, starting in Nagano in 1998. After winning bronze in the 10,000m at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, de Jong and silver medalist Ivan Skobrev famously hoisted the South Korean champion Lee Seung-hoon on the podium.
De Jong won the 10,000m bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games at age 37, becoming the oldest male speed skater to win an Olympic medal in 86 years and beating Lee by 4.49 seconds for third place.
He will now be coaching Lee, who is gearing up for his third Olympics and has been focusing on mass start and team pursuit in favor of individual races.
South Korea has excelled in sprint events, mass start and team pursuit in recent years, but with Lee no longer racing in the 5,000m and 10,000m, the country hasn't found a viable successor to his throne.
De Jong said he has decided to live in the same dormitory as his athletes at the National Training Center in Seoul, instead of picking a place outside the remote training base, so he could stay close to the skaters.
"One big reason is I want to see the team spirit and see what they do before and after training, and in evenings," he said. "I'll be living like an athlete. Maybe I can have more interactions with them after the training, not just during the training." (Yonhap)