4 on 4 gold medals in the 2008 Olympics. « Only » one Gold and one Silver 4 years later in London. The people of the quiet morning country had to energetically wake up after the 2012 slap.
For the last 4 years, Korean has been thinking and working on Rio’s Games. Since more than a year, they have always been thinking about them. After scheduling the substantive work for 2015 mostly in Korea, the National Team big boss, Park Jong-Man, send his troops all over the world. A quite new logic for the Taekwondo “founding fathers”. Germany, Spain, France… Korean fighters gather in some western experience…
« To make rounds against Europeans »
How have the Korean National team got prepared to the Rio Olympics ?
Since 4 years, we have been thinking of the best way to win in Rio. Since last year, we daily train. In 2015, we had numerous seminars in Korea and trainings in our Olympic National Center in Seoul.
This year, I want our athletes to fight against Europeans. I want them to make some rounds against them. That’s the reason why we participated to the German Open at the end of April, and that we did a one week training camp in Paris, with the French team, as well as the Spanish one earlier.
In Hamburg, results didn’t matter. We didn’t go there to win medals but to train. Our athletes didn’t compete for quite a long time. They needed to get back in competitions’s pace again. Between these trips, we train 2 to 3 times a day for a 1h30 in our Olympic Center. Everybody trains there, event those who do not get qualified for the Games. We need everybody. We are going to work hard until mid July. Afterwards, for the last 20 days before the tournament, it will consist in maintaining the athletes’ shape.
How many Gold medals do you expect in Rio ? 5 on 5 ?
(He laughs). No ! I would be very lucky if Korea wins 5 Gold medals. But We should try. We have been training to achieve it. We never know. What I know is that I want a lot of Gold’s (he laughs again).
“To be the best they can be “
What is the most important in Taekwondo ? To have speed, flexibility or technique ?
Technique is, of course, very important but, according to me, the most important is the spirit, the mental strength. If a competitor doesn’t have the will to win, if he doesn’t have a winner spirit, if he is scared, he will always have problems.
From a purely technical standpoint, as we are quite small, contrary to Chinese for instance, we have to work close techniques in order to succeed.
Back to the Games, are you really certain that you don’t aim 5 Golds in Rio ?
No, no, no (he laughs). All countries want Gold. To win a gold medal is some very important, but to win silver or bronze is also important. Of course, I love Gold medals ! It’s human (he laughs again).
But, first of all, I want and I expect from our 5 qualified athletes to be the best they can be and to try all their techniques. Then, if one gets a bronze or a silver medal, I would be happy.
“To push them beyond their limits”
The Korean team trainings are known to be tough. How would you define a “tough session” ?
We need hard training but not everyday. Otherwise, athletes would be tired. Our goal is that they come to a tournament at 100 percent of their capacities. With their technical knowledge and their experience, athletes are usually at 80 per cent of their maximal shape. The coaches’ work, our job, is to make them gain these 20 per cent missing through hard training. It means to push them beyond their assumed limits.
The 5 Korean fighters in Rio
In -58 kg, Kim Tae-Hun (22 years old on August 15th) is the double running world champion.
In -68 kg, Lee Dae-Hoon (24 years old), was silver medallist in the 2012 Olympics (-58 kg) and was crowned world champion in 2011 and 2013 (-63 kg).
In +80 kg, Cha Dong-Min, 30 years of age, was Olympic champion in 2008.
In -49 kg, Kim So-Hui (22 years old) was world champion in 2011 and 2013.
In +67 kg, Oh Hye-Ri (28 years old) is the running world champion.