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Mission Accomplished!
Korea finished fifth in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, with 14 medals
Mission Accomplished!
  • By matthew
  • March 15, 2010, 00:00
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Korea won 14 medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver; six gold, six silver and two bronze medals, the most medals ever claimed by Korea in a single Winter Olympic Games. Korea sat fifth behind Canada, Germany, the United States and Norway in the medal standings at the closing ceremony, surpassing the record (seventh with six gold, three silver and three bronze) from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Korea's 12 athletes competed in six events; Alpine skiing, cross country, biathlon, ski jumping, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. The most notable achievement at this year's Winter Olympics was that Korea won gold medals in various sports as Korea has only been traditionally strong in short track speeding skating.

Short track skater, Lee Jung-su gave Korea its first gold medal of the Olympics after winning the men's 1,500-meter race. He also became Korea's only athlete to win two medals in Vancouver after also triumphing in the 1,000 meters short track. Meanwhile, speed skater, Lee Seung-hoon, who switched from short track to speed skating less than a year ago, won a silver medal in the men's 5,000 meters. In addition, speed skater Mo Tae-bum obtained a gold medal in the men's 500-meter speed skating on his 21st birthday, while his childhood friend, Lee Sang-hwa won the gold medal in the women's 500-meter speed skating. Lee Seung-hoon won a lucky gold medal after the Dutch skater Sven Kramer was disqualified for a bungled lane switch in the 10,000 meters. He had only skated twice in the event before entering the race, having switched from short track to speed skating less than a year ago.

Kim Yu-na was a highlight of the Vancouver Winter Olympics with her gold medal in women's figure skating. The world champion scored 78.50 points in the short program and 150.06 in the free skating, resulting in a total score of 228.56 and breaking her own record.

However, the women's short track team failed to win any medal for the first time after they were disqualified in the final. Korea's bobsleigh team participated in the event for the first time and ranked 19th in the quartet event. This was considered a fairly good score for the first-timers, particularly as they do not even have any proper training facilities. Kwak Min-jung, the youngest member of Team Korea, surprised many by finishing 13th overall in the women's figure skating.

Korea has traditionally only been strong in short track events at the Winter Olympics, but stunned the world by winning medals in various other skating events. Korea won three gold and two silver medals despite its small reputation in speed skating, and became the first nation in Winter Olympic history to sweep the sprint medals. However, Korea's snow sports still have a long way to go, according to Park Sung-jin, chief of the Korean squad, who added that if Korea invests in snow sports with a long-term goal, it will someday pay off.

The Team Korea's strong performance and its outstanding achievements in Vancouver are expected to contribute to Pyeongchang's campaign for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang has already lost the last two bids to Vancouver, Canada and Sochi, Russia, respectively and is battling against Munich, Germany and Annecy, France for 2018. Pyeongchang has been highlighting its rich history in short track to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the unexpected triumph in Vancouver is expected to hugely help the city promote itself as the perfect destination for the 2018 Winter Olympics. “It is an important barometer in the selection of the host for the Games. The fact that Russia is a strong winter sports country played a key role in Sochi winning the 2014 bid,” said Kim Jin-sun, co-chairman of the bid committee. The reigning queen of women's figure skating, Kim Yu-na, will promote the bid as its public ambassador.

Meanwhile the megastar figure skaters marketing value has soared even higher following her triumph at the Winter Olympics. There was already more than enough advertising and merchandise featuring her before the Olympics. However, following her gold medal triumph, competition for product endorsement by the first Korean to win an Olympic medal in figure skating is expected to become even fiercer. She is currently in commercials for various major retailers, including Hyundai Motor, Samsung Electronics, Maeil Dairy and CJ Group. Chances that international firms will join these are also very high.

Kookmin Bank (KB) promised those who hold “Figure Skating Queen Yuna Love” installment savings account a 0.5% point upgrade on interest rates if Kim were to win the gold medal in Vancouver. More than 134,575 account holders are expected to benefit from this event, costing KB approximately KRW 1.3 billion. The bank already raised the interest rate when she won first place in the World Championship last December. KB started sponsoring Kim in 2006 when she was still a hidden treasure and not widely known to the public.

Samsung Tesco Home Plus, the mega store brand operated by Samsung and Tesco designated March 1 as “Yu-na's Day,” in celebration of her winning the gold medal and give a 10% discount to customers who purchased young casual clothing that girls of around Kim's age would buy. Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor distributed products such as skates to 104 people who participated in the “Wishing a Gold Medal for Yu-na” event.

This “Yu-na fever” is shaking the marketing world of Korea. During Kim's near-perfect performance even stock market trading volume was reduced by half. More than 300 companies have approached Kim with marketing and business opportunities, with her revenue from commercial contracts alone expected to reach at least KRW 10 billion this year.