(Universiade) Chief S. Korean delegate delighted with 'unexpected' run to top
GWANGJU, July 13 (Yonhap) -- The head of the South Korean athletic delegation to the ongoing Universiade on Monday said he was delighted with the country's unexpected run to the top of the medal table.
At a press conference, You Byong-jin said he was also happy to have been a part of the team that will finish first in gold medals at a competition set to conclude Tuesday in Gwangju, a metropolitan city some 330 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
South Korea clinched first place with 44 gold medals won through Sunday's events. China and Russia both finished Sunday with 32 gold medals and won't be able to catch the host nation over the next 1 1/2 days.
"I found it incredible yesterday that we'd secured first place overall," You said. "But now, it's finally hit me. I didn't expect such a strong performance, and I am glad I've been able to contribute to a successful competition."
The Universiade is open to student-athletes or recent graduates between 17 and 28 years old. You said he feels the future of South Korean sports is in good hands.
"That our collegiate athletes have become more confident through their experience here is one of the major accomplishments for us," You added. "Hopefully, we can build on this foundation and prepare for the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics next year."
South Korea had initially set out to capture at least 25 gold medals to finish among the top three but surpassed the gold medal target last Wednesday, only the fifth day of the Universiade.
South Korea finished first in gold medals at the 2007 Winter Universiade in Torino, Italy, but this will be the first Summer Universiade that it has led the gold tally.
"I think our athletes have been able to perform to the best of their abilities at home," You said. "It's an honor to lead the Summer Universiade in gold medals for the first time."
South Korea received some bad news early on when gymnast Yang Hak-seon, an Olympic gold medalist in the men's vault, pulled out with a nagging hamstring injury. Yet judo set the tone in the opening days with eight gold medals, something You said was a key to the host's overall success.
You said he was "disappointed" that North Korea didn't take part in the Universiade. North Korea had earlier planned to send athletes in eight sports but pulled out at the last minute, citing political reasons.
You said a North Korean athlete would have taken part in the torch relay but still called the Universiade a success without North Korea.
The official said to improve South Korean sports in the long run, he'd like to see more athletes developed in athletics and swimming. They offered the most gold medals here -- 50 from track and field and 42 from the pool -- but South Korea failed to win a single gold medal in them.
"I am not an expert in sports policy but at this competition, I felt the strong need to nurture and develop athletes in these sports," You said. "I hope to see policies and systems that will add depth to our talent pool in athletics and swimming."