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Korean female handball team earns a bronze medal

With one minute left until the game is over, Lim Young-Chul, the manager for the South Korean team, called for a time-out.  The score is 33 to 28.  S. Korea had a huge, 5-point lead, with which the leading team usually does not call for a last-minute time-out, out of respect for the losing team.  Mr. Lim too is well aware of that.  He did not want to talk about a strategy or something.

He began calling: “O Yeong-Ran” “O Seong-Ok” “Heo Sun-Yeong”, who are players in their 30s; “Hong Jeong-Ho, Park Jeong-Heui…”, who are old veterans, 34 and 33 years old.  “We went through rigorous training with these players in their 30s, some even being housewives.  And now these players can't play in the Olympics anymore even if they wanted to.  I wanted to let them grace the finalé,” said Mr. Lim.  “Manager, you don't have to do this,” said O Seong-Ok, who had a 11-year-old son.  But Lim shook his head, saying “Enjoy the last moment in the court” while asking for consideration from younger teammates.

With the one minute becoming 50 seconds, then 30, then 10, the older players' eyes began welling up.  When a whistle signaled the end of game, Park Jeong-Heui, 33, fell to her knees and broke into tears, face-down.  A junior teammate held her hand and tried to help her back to feet, but Park wouldn't easily straighten up.  The broadcast camera was in front of them, capturing and broadcasting the scene.

That was the third-place female handball match, held on August 23rd.  The goalkeeper O Young-Ran, who had to leave her 21-month-old daughter in the care of her husband's family and come to Beijing with her husband Kang Il-Koo (who is also the goalkeeper in the male handball team of S. Korea), said “I felt sorry for my daughter for being unable to be with her much.  It's not a gold medal, but I wish she would accept mom's bronze medal….”  Her tears drew others' tears out, followed by yet others'.  O Young-Ran said “I was in the court at the end, and I feel sorry for Min-Heui (the junior goalkeeper).”

“I was in the Olympics in my teens, then again in 20s, and now I am here in my 30s, and I've earned a medal every time; All that past came and went in my eyes, and I was in tears before I knew it,” said Hong Jeong-Ho, 34, who was in exclusive charge of 7-meter throws.

It was O Seong-Ok who was last to exit the court, just as she did at the semifinal, when the referee counted the last goal that went in after the game ended, leading to S. Korea's loss.  She held letters she received from fans on the stands, which said: “Let's become friends on CyWorld1!”

O Seong-Ok said “My son told me he saw on TV his mom scoring one after another.  Although I spent time apart from my son, I guess I gave him a lesson by showing his mom do her best.”  She has been in the Olympics five times, while earning all of gold, silver and bronze.  “I feel like giving a deep bow to my junior teammates for this bronze medal which is as good as a gold,” said O, “before I came here I was talking to my fellow veterans, ‘oh, this is really the last time’ while training togeter, ‘this is the last time to this place, really, it's the last time for everything’ at the cafe in front of the training camp.”

“When I was young I wouldn't do something I should do simply because I didn't like it, but now this is becoming something I couldn't do even if I wanted to,” said O.  She recalled the regrettable defeat at the semifinal, and repeated what she told her junior mates: “I told them, ‘Guys, what could we do, it's the heaven's judging.  But we did not lose.’”

Original article by Ho-Jin Song on Hankyeoreh.
English translation copyright © 2008 Eugene M. Kim.

1 CyWorld is the leading social networking service in Korea, predating most (if not all) others well-known in the business worldwide.

Comments

That's very kind and inspiring!
I almost cried when I first read this... :-p
Now THAT is a classy coach. Usually in basketball they're able to pull the players off at dead balls, but because they can substitute on the fly, this is something that you don't see in handball. Calling that time-out probably made the other team get pissed... until they found out the reason why. This is one of those stories that really needs to be told more about this Olympics.
That dude is awesome.