By Joo Kyung-don
INCHEON, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- It's just three days after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics came to an end, but South Korean athletes have already set their sights on the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.
The South Korean delegation to the Rio Games was officially disbanded after their main squad returned home to a hero’s welcome on Wednesday. In Rio, South Korea was represented by 333 athletes and officials in 24 of 28 sports. The country finished eighth place overall among the 206 countries that competed in Rio with nine gold, three silver and nine bronze medals.
Although the 31st Summer Games is over, South Korean athletes were already looking ahead to the next Olympics in Tokyo even though some have already made history at the quadrennial event.
"As an active athlete, I do covet a chance to play at the Tokyo Olympics," said shooter Jin Jong-oh. "Until then, I will keep trying my best."
Jin became the first shooter, man or woman, to win a single event at three Olympics in a row after he claimed the 50m pistol gold medal at the Rio Games. The 36-year-old also became the first South Korean athlete to win a gold medal at three consecutive Olympics, winter or summer.
After his historic achievement, Chuncheon, Jin's hometown in Gangwon Province, decided to build a shooting range named after him. Jin said he is honored by the gesture, but he hopes the shooting range meets international standards.
"If they can make the facility big enough to host international tournaments, it will be great for me and young shooters who are looking to become national team members."
South Korean shooter Jin Jong-oh (L) touches archer Chang Hye-jin's Olympic gold medal during a ceremony to disband the South Korean delegation to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Aug. 24, 2016. (Yonhap)
Archer Chang Hye-jin, who won gold in both women's individual and team events, said she is also eyeing the Tokyo Olympics. At 29, Chang was the oldest member on the women's archery team at the Rio Games, which was her first Olympics.
No archer has won two gold medals in back-to-back Olympics. Ki Bo-bae went up for the feat in Rio, but she was denied by teammate Chang in the semifinals.
"I think getting selected to the national team is more difficult than winning an Olympic medal," Chang said. "But if I work hard each year, I might be able to compete at the Tokyo Olympics."
Not all athletes, however, were thinking about the Tokyo Olympics upon their return. Greco-Roman wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo, who was also the South Korean flag bearer at the airport, said he first wants to take some time off.
"Isn't it a little cruel to ask about the Tokyo Olympics to the athletes who have just completed their four-year work in Rio?" Kim jokingly said.
Kim, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 66kg class, settled for a bronze in the 75kg division at the Rio Games after a judging controversy in his first round defeat. In the bronze medal bout, the 27-year-old competed with a dislocated right elbow, but went on to beat Bozo Starcevic of Croatia 6-4.
"I first need to treat my elbow," he said. "If I'm qualified to compete after four years, then I will be at the Tokyo Olympics."
South Korean athletes who failed to win a medal at the Rio Games said they will restore their honor in 2020. For those in modern pentathlon, for which the country has never won an Olympic medal, they were determined to surprise everyone at the Tokyo Summer Games.
"'The God of the Olympics' didn't allow us to win a medal this time," said Choi Eun-jong, head coach of the South Korean modern pentathlon team. "In Tokyo, we will put our utmost effort to win our first medal."
South Korean medalists at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics pose for photo at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Aug. 24, 2016. (Yonhap)