Yeo Seo-jeong won the bronze medal in the mechanical gymnastics (vault).
/Extracted from Suwon City Hall website
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics opened with a spectacular ceremony on July 23rd and ended in success on August 8th. Among the 33 sports, were there any events that touched your heart or made you nervous about winning and losing? It could be popular Olympic sports such as soccer, baseball, table tennis, archery, fencing and swimming, or the so-called “unpopular sports” of gymnastics, yachting, and track and field. Judging whether a sports event is popular or not might be decided by the history of the event or the interest of the people towards it. But in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there were many moments when people showed interest in unpopular events that did not gain much interest before. Also games, which have never been attracted a lot of attention, athletes’ efforts were rewarded with medals. However, broadcasters did not broadcast unpopular matches in some cases as they did not expect many people to watch them. All the athletes who did their best in the Olympics, including those who overcame the stigma of the title unpopular event and did well, deserve to be praised. Let us take a look at what kind of games were labeled unpopular, but showed great scenes.
Unpopular events showed good results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Gymnastics is a deep-rooted traditional sport that has held its place since the Athens 1896 Olympics, the first modern Olympics. Following Yang Hak-seon’s first gold medal in gymnastics (vault) at the London 2012 Olympics, Shin Jae-hwan, the secret weapon of the men’s national gymnastics team, became the first Korean winner of the gold medal in gymnastics (vault) in nine years. Shin scored an average of 14.783 points in the first and second rounds of the men’s gymnastics final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held at Ariake Gymnastics Stadium in Tokyo on August 2nd, tying Denis Ablyazin (a Russian gymnast). However, he won the gold medal due to the 6.0 points technique “Yonekura,” which has a much higher level of difficulty level. Shin was not the only medal winner in gymnastics. Yeo Seo-jeong won the bronze medal in the mechanical gymnastics (vault), a first Korean female gymnast. Yeo scored an average of 14.733 points in the first and second rounds of the women’s gymnastics (vault) at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In the first period, she received 15.333 points for her 6.2 points difficulty “Yeo Seo-jeong” and 14.133 points for the second period.
Breaking the expectation that it would be difficult for a track star to appear in Korean sports, a new athlete has written the history of Korean track and field at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In this Olympics, Woo Sang-hyuk wrote a new history of Korean track and field, setting his, and simultaneously the Korean best record in the finals. He broke Lee Jin-taek’s record of 2.34 meters at the National Championships on June 20th, 1997, and revitalized the sluggish Korean track and field. In particular, in the final round, in which he must have been under a lot of pressure, he smiled broadly, saying, “Let’s go,” and “Let’s get on.” Even after failing at 2.39 meters, he shouted, “It’s okay.” Seeing his appearance, many people said that he showed the true spirit of sports, and Woo’s moral victory was as valuable as winning a medal.
Woo Ha-ram, a diver, recorded the highest performance in the history of diving in Korea at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Although he failed to win a medal, he came in fourth place. Woo scored a total of 481.85 points in the men’s three meters springboard finals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics held at the Aquatics Center in Tokyo, Japan on August 3rd. South Korea’s Olympic diving performance was 11th in the men’s 10 meters platform at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Woo broke his own record in five years and set a new record. Korean diving has continued to compete in the Olympics since the 1960 Rome Games, but there have been no successful medalists so far. Therefore, it can be said that Woo’s fourth place in the tournament was the most precious result of all.
Ha Ji-min entered the Olympic medal race for the first time in the history of Korean yachting. He finished fifth in the yacht laser weight medal race at Enoshima Yacht Harbour in Kanagawa Prefecture on August 1st. The combined score of the 10th race, which began on July 25th and ran through July 30th, was 98 points in total, ranking seventh. It was the first time that a South Korean yacht athlete set a top 10 record in the Olympics. Throughout the Olympics, Ha was named a pillar of the Korean yacht industry and showed the bright future of the Korean yachting games.
People’s opinions vary on the controversy over unpopular sports
As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was held, the three terrestrial broadcasters’ relay games also heated up. However, there were a lot of criticisms that the broadcast only focused on certain events, considering nationalism or medalist priority. People could not see the performance of korean players when they were competing in what are commonly known as unpopular events. In particular, viewers’ criticism reached its peak on July 31st, when the women’s volleyball was matched against Japan, the United States (U.S.) baseball group stage match, and the soccer quarterfinals match against Mexico overlapped. This was because the three main channels (SBS, KBS 2TV, MBC) except KBS 1TV, which broadcasted baseball, broadcasted the quarterfinals of soccer. The viewers’ complaints about not finding volleyball broadcasting on the domestic channel flooded in. Volleyball was broadcasted only on KBS N SPORTS, a paid site, and terrestrial broadcasters broadcast volleyball games after the previously organized games or in the form of reruns.
Shim Dae-woo, a freshman of the Department of North Korean studies, said he watched the quarterfinals of the three terrestrial broadcasters. He thought the three terrestrial broadcasters who only broadcasted soccer were wrong. He added, “I think the three terrestrial companies are not just media companies in Korea, but also media companies that represent the nation. It would have been better if the broadcasting company considered the position of the nation’s representative organization and broadcast through consultations between the three companies.” Further, “Unlike the World Cup and the World Baseball Classic (WBC), I believe that in the Olympics, all events should be equally respected, as various events are participating for the purpose of winning medals. I hope that the three terrestrial broadcasters will broadcast various sports events under consultation in line with the purpose of the Olympics.” Kang Eun-yeong, a sophomore of the Department of Chinese language and literature, said she chose to watch the women’s volleyball match among the three games on the same day. She watched it with great interest because she was a fan of Kim Yeon-koung. She added, “Especially considering the fact that this Olympics is being held under the circumstances of the pandemic, we can see how much effort the athletes have put in under bad conditions. Therefore, it cannot be rationalized for them to be out of the spotlight just because they are not popular. This Olympics created a number of new sports stars. Regardless to the event, I hope their achievements to be fairly spotlighted.”
However, Yang Ji-min, a sophomore of the Department of Chinese language and literature, expressed his opinion that it is necessary to broadcast the popular sports in the Olympics. He replied that since soccer has the most viewers as a popular sport, it is natural for three terrestrial broadcasters to broadcast soccer. He added, “South Korea is a capitalist society that guarantees freedom. The three broadcasters have earned the right to broadcast the Olympics by paying expensive broadcasting rights, and must make enough ad revenue to make up for it. It is so natural for broadcasters to pursue maximum profits from biased broadcasting in capitalism, which excludes non-competitive products and makes profits by putting out competitive products.” He also added, “Fruit is sold well especially during Lunar New Year’s Day, so supermarkets do not produce and sell relatively underselling products. There is no obligation to guarantee consumers the right to buy unpopular products at the mart. The Olympics period is a part of the broadcasting station. Therefore, I think it is an excessive demand to ask broadcasters to reduce the number of popular sports broadcasts and force them to expand the number of unpopular sports broadcasts during the Olympics.”
Winning medals in various events is a result of hidden sponsorship
Behind the performances of the national athletes, who won medals in Korea at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there was the support of major domestic companies. It is said that support for fostering sports that are not only “popular” but also “unpopular” has become the foundation for the Olympics medal.
Archery was the first sport that attracted attention with corporate sponsorship. In the case of archery, which won four gold medals in the Olympics, Hyundai Motor Group has sponsored it for 37 years. So far, Hyundai Motor Group has reportedly provided 50 billion won in archery funding, which is helping athletes to be trained by Artificial Intelligence (AI), vision recognition, and 3D printing using Hyundai Motor Group’s research and development capabilities. Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Eui-sun, who is also the chairman of the Korea Archery Association, gives them physical and mental support and has visited the Olympic Stadium to encourage the athletes one by one.
Yeo Seo-jeong and Shin Jae-hwan were able to win bronze and gold medals respectively in the women’s and men’s vault events at the Olympics because of POSCO’s steady support. POSCO has been the president of the Korea Gymnastics Association since 1985 and provided 21 billion won over 37 years. The company provided 400 million to 800 million won each year up to 2019, and the amount of support has been increased to 900 million won so that players can concentrate wholly on training.
These athletes trained hard facing an uncertain future because they are unpopular events’ athletes, or have never won a medal in Korea. These athletes should be celebrated for what they have achieved at the Olympic. It is time to give them the attention and love they deserve. The nation has to remember the sweat and tears that athletes shed for Korea’s gymnastics, track and field, diving, and yachting and their efforts to overcome the sorrow of unpopular events to make their mark at the Olympics. We should tell our athletes who gave great performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that they did a great job, and anticipate their performances in the Paris 2024 Olympics .
Choi Yu-ri firstname.lastname@example.org
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