Olympic veteran, neophyte share common goal for Paris 2024

Korean athletes, coaches and officials competing at the Paris Olympics attend a joint press conference at the Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, North Chungcheong Province, June 26. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

Competing in one Olympic Games is difficult enough, as they only happen every four years. So much can happen to an athlete in those intervening years — injuries, age-related decline and loss of motivation, among others.

This summer in Paris, Korean artistic gymnast Kim Hansol will join an increasingly rare company of athletes competing in his third straight Olympic Games. At 28, Kim is not a young pup in gymnastics, and he said Wednesday he will try to make the most of what could be his final Olympic appearance.

In his Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Kim competed in the men’s team event. At the Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021 after a one-year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim reached the final of the floor exercise and finished in eighth place.

“I was a little too young in Rio and quite rough around the edges. Then in Tokyo, I felt I had a chance to win a medal, but I made a huge mistake in the final,” Kim recalled Wednesday in a media scrum at the Jincheon National Training Center, where the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) held a media day to mark the 30-day countdown to the Paris Games. “This time, I will try to lean on my veteran savvy. Even if I don’t end up with a gold medal, I would love to stand on the podium.”

Kim is a two-time defending Asian Games champions in the floor exercise and has a world title in the vault under his belt too. He has also won seven medals at the Asian championships. An Olympic medal would be the icing on the cake for the gymnast.

“Including the Asian Games last year, I’ve been doing well in recent competitions,” Kim said. “Hopefully, I can build on those and do well in Paris too.”

Kim was 20 at his first Olympic Games, the same age as taekwondo athlete Park Tae-joon for his own Olympic debut this summer.

Unlike Kim eight years ago, Park is regarded as a medal threat in his event, the men’s 58 kilograms, especially after he knocked off the 2021 Olympic bronze medalist Jang Jun in the national team trials in February.

Korea has long been a taekwondo powerhouse and will be out to prove that its goldless performance in Tokyo was merely a blip. Park will be the 추천 first of four Koreans to get into action in taekwondo in Paris, and he said Wednesday he will be ready to roll when the lights come on.

“Taekwondo has always carried high expectations,” Park said. “I know I’ve drawn some attention after beating Jang Jun to make the national team. I will try to meet those expectations. My competition is about 40 days away, and I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be fun.”

On speaking in front of dozens of reporters and national television cameras, Park smiled and said, “I know I will be competing in front of a big crowd at the Olympics, and I think this was a good opportunity to get a taste of that.”

Park already seems to have a veteran approach to his first Olympics.

“I’ve heard so much that if I get too conscious of the magnitude of the Olympics, it will affect my performance negatively,” Park said. “So I am trying to see it as just another competition and to stay calm and relaxed.” 

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