Kyung-Seon Hwang, double Olympic champion: “I’m not retiring, my challenge now is Rio”
Kyung-Seon Hwang, gold medalist of both Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, confirms she is willing to participate in Rio 2016
Hwang announced her retirement during the press conference she gave after winning the gold medal of the Women’s -67 kg category in London 2012. Her contract with Ko-yang city team ended right after the Olympics, so she thought it was the perfect time to leave Taekwondo.
However, during the interview with WTM, she revealed her intention to continue competing as long as her body condition permits her to. She is now twenty-seven years old -she was born in 1986-, so she will be 30 at Rio 2016. She won’t definitely be the youngest athlete at Rio, but she won’t be as old as to be retired either. This means her dream to win the Olympic title for the third time in a row is still possible.
Kyung-Seon Hwang has competed in three editions of the Olympic Games, clinching the bronze medal in her first appearance in Athens 2004. She’s also won two gold medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Despite the high level of Taekwondo Korea has always hold, she’s the only athlete who has represented the Asian country in three different Olympics. Beside Hwang, only Jingyu Wu from China has obtained two consecutive gold medals in Olympics.
Might this rivalry have been the reason for Hwang’s decision to continue competing? We’ll find it out during the interview.
Q. You announced you retirement just after the London Olympics. Why did you change your mind?
A. I was so tired and exhausted after the competition that I really thought I was going to retire, but my team treats me so well that I would like to respond to their expectations and keep competing as long as I can. That’s why I decided to change my plans.
Q. Does that mean you’ll be competing at Puebla 2013 World Taekwondo Championships?
A. Of course, I am getting ready for that competition and I would also like to compete in next year’s Asian Games and Rio 2016 Olympics as long as I am in good shape.
Q. Personally you achieved a great result at London 2012 by winning you second gold medal. However, the Korean National Team’s result wasn’t that good. What was the reason for that in your opinion?
A. First of all, I think it had something to do with the protector. In Korea we use different protectors depending on the competition. For example, KP&P protector is used in the ordinary competitions, while Daedo protector is required in the national team selection. Depending on which protector is used, athletes have to adapt to a different intensity in order to score the points. The second reason is the lack of international experience. Some elite Korean athletes who are used to be on top of national events, have experienced difficulties in the international competitions. They feel nervous because of their short international experience and they have problems to counteract the different style of combat that foreign fighters use.
Q. Some of your toughest opponents are Gwladys Epangue from France, Sarah Stevenson from UK, Mi-kyung Kim, your rival in the final of the National Team selection, and Hae-mi Park, your compatriot of the Samsung S1 team. Stevenson was expected to be your most dangerous opponent in London as she was competing at home, but she lost her first round match because of an injury. What is your opinion on all of them?
A. I had a lot of respect for Sarah Stevenson, but not only because she had the home advantage, I was also worried about facing her because she had beaten me at Gyeongju 2011 World Championship. I trained a lot to try to adapt to her combat style, but fortunately she was disqualified in the first round and I didn’t have to worry about her any more. If we compare Sarah with Epangue, I’d say Sarah moves a lot and has a really active attack, while Epangue has a really stable defense and knows how to select the best moment to attack. I’d have preferred to face Epangue rather than Sarah because I like to lead the combats. Regarding Mi-kung Kim and Hae-mi Park, I think they are both really difficult fighters to beat. Mi-kung moves more than Hae-mi, but Hae-mi is more powerful. Talking about rivals, I have to say Nur Tatar from Turkey, who I met in the final of the London Olympics, is one of the best athletes I’ve seen in a long time. She’s still young, so I see many possibilities for her in the future.
Q. People say you’re the best athlete, but they also state that you are too hard, egocentric and selfish. What do you think about this comments?
A. Sometimes people judge other people when they only know a part of them. I’ve been an athlete since I was a kid, and despite being introverted, I am not able to hide my feelings. When I started to compete as a kid, I used to answer to all the questions I was asked. However, as I started to mature, my personality changed. For example, now I am really straightforward and I don’t hesitate to tell people what I really think, which is something I didn’t do in the past. In many occasions, you don’t get what you deserve if you don’t act like that. That’s why I usually play the bad role, but these are things you have to accept as an athlete.
Q. Now that you’ve matured, are you thinking about getting married? Do you have a boyfriend?
A. (laughing) I have no boyfriend, but I’d like to marry as soon as possible in case I met the right person. I am a woman before being an athlete. If I get married before I am 30, I’ll probably be the only married athlete in Korea, if it is allowed.
Kyung-Seon Hwang was the only athlete who kept Korea’s pride in London. Not only because of the great result she achieved, but also because of the combat technique that she used to beat her rivals. After reaching an outstanding record of two consecutive gold medals in the Olympics, Kyung-Seon Hwang gets back to Taekwondo in order to achieve something no one has ever done before: winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals. The world of Taekwondo will be attentively following her new challenge.
Sung jin Park
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