GANGNEUNG -- Korean short track head coach Kim Sun-tae said Friday he has learned to accept the outcomes of his athletes' races despite some disappointments at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Kim led the Korean men's and women's skaters to three gold, one silver and two bronze medals. The six medals were the most among all participating countries, as Korea solidified its standing as the world's premier short track powerhouse. Korea leads the all-time Olympic rankings with 24 gold medals and 48 medals in total.
But the medal tally here could have been even higher. On Thursday alone, there were two crashes that cost the team at least two medals. In the final of the women's 1,000 meters, gold medal favorite Choi Min-jeong bumped into her teammate Shim Suk-hee, as both fell and rammed into the safety padding. Only minutes later in the men's 5,000m relay final, Lim Hyo-jun took a bad spill and fell without contact when Korea was in the lead midway through the 45-lap race.
Korean short track speed skating head coach Kim Sun-tae speaks during a press conference at Team Korea House inside Gangneung Olympic Park in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 23, 2018. (Yonhap)
Still, Kim said he was proud of what his skaters were able to accomplish.
"We've always talked about how we should accept whatever results we get and how we should focus on preparing for the Olympics the best we can," Kim said during a press conference with the men's team at Team Korea House inside Gangneung Olympic Park in Gangneung, just east of PyeongChang.
"Our results may have been disappointing to some, but I am satisfied with them," Kim added. "I know these athletes may have their own disappointments, but as long as they know they did their best and competed in the spirit of fair play, then I believe they should also accept their outcomes."
Kim was effusive of the men's team, which included four first-time Olympians, and said they exceeded expectations despite their lack of experience in big races.
Korean men got shut out of medals in Sochi four years ago, but a new generation of skaters made sure it wouldn't happen again on home ice this time. There were three different medalists on the men's squad, who combined for one gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
Lim Hyo-jun, in his Olympic debut at 21, captured gold in the 1,500 meters and added bronze in the 500m.
Hwang Dae-heon, the youngest member of the team at 18, was the silver medalist in the 500m. Seo Yi-ra, the 2017 world overall champion, took bronze in the 1,000m.
Coach Kim pointed to Lim and Hwang as "the future of Korean short track" and PyeongChang 2018 was a great stepping stone for them.
"In all individual races, we had two skaters in the finals," Kim noted. "And I think these athletes will continue to improve as they gain more experience. We still take pride in being a short track power."
Kim admitted that being a coach in a sport that always carries high expectations has had its challenges, and he thanked his athletes for making his job easier and for having faith in him.
"I've always believed that, as long as we're in this together, we can overcome whatever obstacles that may be in our way," the coach added. "I know skaters from other countries have improved. But we have a lot of great skaters with strong fundamentals. During this Olympics, I became convinced that we will be able to stay at the top no matter what."(Yonhap)