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Reunited as coach-athlete, stars of Vancouver 2010 relive fond memories

2017/05/16 18:05

By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, May 16 (Yonhap) -- It was one of the iconic moments of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, an act of sportsmanship that was as spontaneous as it was heartwarming.

South Korean Lee Seung-hoon captured the gold medal in the men's 10,000m speed skating, becoming the first from the country to win an Olympic title in the distance. Ivan Skobrev of Russia and Bob de Jong of the Netherlands took silver and bronze medals.

Then on the podium, the two Europeans decided to hoist the smallish South Korean on their shoulders, letting Lee enjoy his moment at the top of the speed skating world. The gesture endeared de Jong and Skobrev to the South Korean fans.

And as fate would have it, de Jong will now be coaching Lee on the South Korean national team. The Korea Skating Union named the Dutch veteran as the new assistant coach last month, and de Jong arrived in South Korea Tuesday.

Bob de Jong (L), former Dutch speed skater appointed as an assistant coach for the South Korean national team, waves to the crowd gathered at Incheon International Airport on May 16, 2017, as South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon looks on. (Yonhap) Bob de Jong (L), former Dutch speed skater appointed as an assistant coach for the South Korean national team, waves to the crowd gathered at Incheon International Airport on May 16, 2017, as South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon looks on. (Yonhap)

Lee greeted his one-time rival at Incheon International Airport, sharing an embrace like old times.

Once they begin their new, coach-athlete relationship, they may have their ups and downs and hit some bumps along the way. But on Tuesday at least, they spent some time reminiscing about Feb. 23, 2010, at Richmond Olympic Oval.

De Jong said hoisting Lee was a spur-of-the-moment decision.

"On the podium, (Skobrev and I) were looking over at the Olympic champion and he was a little smaller," said de Jong, listed at 181 centimeters, 4 centimeters taller than Lee. Skobrev is listed at 187 centimeters.

"It wouldn't make good pictures to have the smallest in the middle," de Jong went on. "(Skobrev and I) looked at each other and our eyes said enough. We lifted Lee. It was a really good decision and we got nice pictures. It's a really good memory of the Olympics."

   De Jong, who won four Olympic medals, including a 10,000m gold in 2006, in his illustrious career, said he hopes Lee can grab another gold at next year's Winter Olympics in South Korea's PyeongChang.

"I'll talk about that race with him and help him beat everybody again," de Jong said of Lee, who has since turned to the mass start and team pursuit in favor of 10,000m.

And if Lee does reach the top of the podium in PyeongChang, will de Jong be up there and put him on his shoulder again?

   "If he wins another gold medal, I think I'll go crazy," the Dutchman said with a smile. "I won't know what to do there. We'll see."

   Lee, who also won a 5,000m silver in Vancouver and then a team pursuit silver in Sochi four years later, said he will always have a special place in his heart for de Jong and Skobrev.

"It all happened too quickly, and I never expected anything like that to happen," Lee recalled. "I didn't really know what was going on. But looking back at it, I knew it was such a great moment. I felt it was so nice of those two to do what they did for me."

   Fond memories aside, Lee said he can't wait to begin working with de Jong.

"As soon as I heard he was going to be our coach, I knew we would all have so much to learn from him," Lee said. "He was always brilliant at managing his races and controlling his pace. We should all learn how he was able to maintain his strength from start to finish."

  

In this file photo taken on Feb. 23, 2010, South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon (C) is hoisted up by Ivan Skobrev of Russia (L) and Bob de Jong of the Netherlands (R) on the podium after winning the 10,000m gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, British Columbia. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken on Feb. 23, 2010, South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon (C) is hoisted up by Ivan Skobrev of Russia (L) and Bob de Jong of the Netherlands (R) on the podium after winning the 10,000m gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond, British Columbia. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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