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(Yonhap Interview) Head of S. Korean athletics body wants to go back to drawing board
By Yoo Jee-ho
DAEGU, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- With South Korean track and field having completed a disappointing World Championships in Athletics this past weekend, officials and athletes alike should go back to the drawing board, the head of the local athletics body said.

   In an interview with Yonhap News Agency Sunday, Oh Dong-jin, president of the Korea Association of Athletics Federations (KAAF), said South Korea's failure to win a medal at the worlds served as a solemn reminder of its position in global athletics.

   "We prepared hard, but the rest of the world was just that much better," Oh said. "We didn't have it."

   South Korea's medal drought at the world championships stretched to 13 events in Daegu. It is also the third host to fail to win a medal in the championships' 28-year history.

   South Korea also fell well short of its modest goal of having top-10 finishes in at least 10 disciplines under the so-called "10-10" project. Only two race walkers, Kim Hyun-sub in the men's 20 kilometers and Park Chil-sung in the men's 50 kilometers, were among the 10 best in their respective events.

   Four national records were set but none led to a medal. Kim Deok-hyeon made the final in the men's long jump but withdrew after spraining his left foot in the qualification for the triple jump just hours earlier.

   Oh said he will focus on a few events where South Korea will have the best chance to match international stars and support the development of talent in those disciplines for the London Olympics next year.

   "We will concentrate on the race walk, marathon, pole vault and short-distance relays," he said. "I saw possibilities in those events here."

   Oh opined that in order to address the lack of depth in track and field, schools should try to discover future stars and start nurturing them at an early age.

   Though the performance on the track and the field left much to be desired, Oh said he was happy with the crowd turnout.

   "Watching such enthusiastic response from the fans, I felt the Korean people have finally fallen in love with athletics," Oh said. "We couldn't accomplish 10-10, but I think we gained much more than that."

   He also said having the championships at home should help local athletes and officials broaden their horizons.

   "I expect that some 400 local coaches who acted as judges during the championships, plus national team athletes, will have new perspectives," Oh said. "The championships will go down as a major turning point for our athletics."

   He said more than 10,000 Japanese picked up athletics after Osaka hosted the 2007 championships, adding he hoped the Daegu event can lead to a similar kind of boom.

   In the meantime, there is work to be done.

   "I will have intense discussions with athletics officials over problems," Oh said. "It will be about what the problems are, instead of whose problems they are."

Oh Dong-jin (Yonhap file photo)