South Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh poses with his pistol in this photo provided by the Korea Shooting Federation today. (Korea Shooting Federation)
At 41, the South Korean Olympic shooting legend Jin Jong-oh knows his time as a competitive athlete may be reaching its end.
But he insisted this week he doesn't want to get pushed to that point and that he will call his own shots.
Jin will be competing at his fifth Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Over his four appearances, Jin captured four gold medals and two silver medals. He's tied with former archer Kim Soo-nyung for most Olympic medals by a South Korean athlete.
To even qualify for the Tokyo Games, Jin took perhaps the toughest path yet in his career, as he grabbed the last spot available in the men's 10-meter air pistol event in the Olympic trials.
Through four rounds, Jin was lagging behind in seventh place. But he rallied in the fifth and the final round and shot a perfect 10 to finish second overall in the discipline and snatch that final Olympic spot.
During an online interview held Thursday, Jin shared a back story from the Olympic trials. After the third round of the qualification, when Jin remained out of the Olympic picture, one coach came up to him and said, "You should stop shooting. You should retire now."
"I was really hurt, but it gave me extra motivation and fueled my competitive fire," Jin said. "When I heard that, I wanted to break the world record and earn my Olympic spot. Now that I've qualified, I can hold my head high and leave everything on the floor."
Jin admitted thoughts of retirement have entered his mind but said, "I don't want to be forced into it."
Jin now has a chance to make history, as one more medal will make him the country's most decorated Olympian.
He said the pursuit of the record-setting medal can be a double-edged sword for him.
"I'd love to make history, but trying to win that seventh medal may also be the biggest distraction," Jin said. "I am feeling more pressure going into this year's Olympics than any other Olympics from the past. I don't want (the chase of the medal) to affect my focus, but personally, I really want to win that seventh medal."
Jin is a three-time reigning gold medalist in the 50m pistol and is the first shooter to win three straight gold medals in one event. But the 50m pistol has been dropped from the Olympics, and he'll have to concentrate on the 10m air pistol, where he has a gold and a silver, and the newly created 10m air pistol mixed team event.
In the team competition, Jin will join forces with Choo Ga-eun, who is 22 years younger.
"I've been trying to help her with the mental side of the sport," the veteran said. "I'll talk to her quite a bit and make sure she is in the right frame of mind going into our competition." (Yonhap)