Incheon -- As the 2014 Incheon Asian Games came to an end, Chinese divers have once again dominated the diving pool as always, claiming all 10 gold medals in both the men and women’s events. However, it was South Korean young hopefuls, Kim Yeong-nam and Woo Ha-ram that stood out among China’s flawless performances.
Chinese divers have claimed gold in all events since the Tehran Asian Games in 1974, leaving Malaysia, Japan, and North Korea fight for silver and bronze. South Korea has never been noticed much at the Asian Games, as they have not won a single medal in the individual events since 1986, when Lee Sun-gee won bronze in the men’s 3m springboard.
However at Incheon, the hosts managed to get five podium presences, claiming one silver and four bronze medals; two from the men’s synchronized events, performed by Kim and Woo, and two more from Woo’s solo performance in the 1m springboard and 10m platform. Kim Na-mi added another bronze in the women’s 1m springboard event. It was the largest number of medals after China.
“We really endured and went through long hours of training. We tried to stay motivated to perform our best as the hosts of the Games,” coach Kim Eun-hee said after the Games were over. “I am so relieved and happy for the athletes who did so well.”
Other than the home ground crowd, who filled the spectator seats to cheer and show support, coach Kim also thanked all the support from the Korean Olympic Committee and the Korea Swimming Federation. “Since the new training center opened in Jincheon, we have great environments for training and rest, so the athletes can focus more on their practice.” The national training center in Jincheon, some 90 kilometers south of Seoul in North Chungcheong Province, features both indoor and outdoor state-of-the-art training facilities for some 350 national team members in 12 events, including a swimming center with fully furnished diving facilities. “Before then, sometimes we had to stay in cheap motels near the pools,” coach Kim added.
Feeling rewarded after the hardship while preparing for the Asian Games, coach Kim said her proudest moment was when Woo ranked second after the fifth round in the men’s 10m platform. Woo successfully managed the back 3½ somersault pike and scored 93.60, pushing Yang Jian of China into third place. “Although Yang eventually took silver, at that moment, even the Chinese coaches looked nervous and surprised. That itself really means a lot.”
Because China is such a powerhouse in diving, most countries including the United States and Malaysia, have invited Chinese coaches to learn the secrets of China’s domination. However, South Korea’s national diving team is composed of pure Koreans only. “I think it is another achievement that we have come this far with our very own know-how,” coach Kim smiled.
Considering the fact that most divers’ peak of their career comes in their mid-twenties, the Kim-Woo duo, who are yet high school students, have more potential than what they showed in Incheon this week. The 2014 Incheon Asian Games had come to an end, but a brighter future for South Korean diving has just begun.
By Lee Jin-ho (AGNS)