South Koreans Yejin Choi, Howon Jeong and Han Soo Kim scripted a key moment in their Paralympic journey by winning gold in the BC3 mixed boccia pairs at Tokyo 2020.
âThere is a saying in our country that we should try three times in a lifetime, so I had strong faith to stand on the podium in our third edition of the Paralympic Games,â said Choi, who did team up with Jeong and Kim. in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The trio sealed their victory after beating hosts Japan, whose team consisted of Keisuke Kawamoto, Kazuki Takahashi and Keiko Tanaka, in the extra fifth end of the final at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
âWe were more impatient than ever for a win, so we didn’t give in until the end,â commented captain Jeong.
A STRONGER MIND WAS THE KEY
When Japan forced a 4-4 tie-break after scoring three runs in the fourth end, London 2012 individual gold medalist Choi recalled his bitter experience against Brazil in the backyard final of the latter in 2016.
âThe Japanese team had three balls on the left while we only had one ball. I almost thought I had used all my luck, âChoi continued.
âBut I did my best not to forget how three of us overcame many setbacks together for almost 10 years.
“And the captain always told us, ‘Just focus on what we can do now, whatever the situation,’ before the 2020 Paralympics.”
Rio 2016 gold medalist Jeong confessed he struggled to rebuild his mentality after being knocked out in the BC3 individual mixed quarterfinals.
âIn fact, I was very confident in the individual event. I even enjoyed working under pressure to defend the title, âsaid the 35-year-old.
“However, I didn’t have time to be disappointed with the unexpected results as it would definitely affect the mood of our team.”
Kim also managed to quickly overcome his loss in the individual quarterfinals while reflecting on his aspiration to become champion.
âI was the only one not to have won gold at the Paralympic Games among the three of us despite having participated in three editions of the Games,â Kim continued.
âWe’ve had the best teamwork ever this season. That’s why I wasn’t nervous at all, but rather excited with every game. It’s hard to describe my feelings about the long-awaited gold medal.
BOCCIA LET THE NATION SHINE
The South Korean boccia team have won at least one consecutive gold medal at every Paralympic Games since Seoul 1988. This achievement has made the sport the most decorated Paralympic history in the country.
Additionally, Choi and Jeong guided the South Korean team as the flag bearer during the opening and closing ceremonies, respectively.
âI heard that we were the first boccia athletes to wear the South Korean flag at the Paralympics. I was very happy to help spread the word about the sport, âsaid Choi, who ran the team with her mother and assistant Woo Young Moon.
As the trio wrap up their trip to Tokyo, the teammates will become friendly rivals who aim to win an individual gold medal in Paris in three years.