Korea doubled its gold medal total Wednesday, picking up three Olympic titles to shoot up to six gold medals at the start of the new month in London.
The country is now halfway past its stated goal of winning at least 10 gold medals for its third straight top-10 finish in the medal table.
Teenage shooter Kim Jang-mi got the ball rolling, taking the women’s 25-meter pistol. As the world record holder in the event, the 19-year-old came into the Olympics as the favorite and delivered with a clutch shot late in the final.
Judoka Song Dae-nam won South Korea’s second judo gold in as many days, claiming the men’s under-90? gold medal. The 33-year-old beat Asley Gonzalez of Cuba, 10 years his junior.
The third champion of the day was yet another Cinderella figure, as Kim Ji-yeon captured the women’s sabre fencing title over Sofya Velikaya of Russia.
Their golden moments overshadowed yet another major accomplishment on this day. The men’s football team advanced to the quarterfinals with a scoreless draw against Gabon and took a major step toward South Korea’s first Olympic men’s football medal.
Before her shooting final at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Kim said she had butterflies in her stomach, which had almost never happened to her in competition.
“I didn’t expect myself to grow this nervous because I am not really the type to tense up in competition,” she said. “I felt like my heart would burst the moment I stepped into the range for the final.”
The 19-year-old, though, calmed down her nerves in time for the 10.9 bull’s-eye in her third-to-last attempt, a clutch shot that all but sealed her victory over Chen Ying of China.
She said the final was a great learning experience.
“I realized, ‘Well, I can get nervous, and I do get nervous,'” Kim said. “I will try to improve technical and also mental aspects of my performance and go for more medals in Brazil four years from now.” The 2016 Olympics are in Rio de Janeiro.
Song, the judo victor, won’t get to travel to Rio. He said he’d known all along that this would be his last Olympics, which made his win Wednesday that much sweeter.
Song took a difficult road to the top of the Olympic podium. He had been No. 1 in the world in the under-81? class when he suffered a career-threatening knee injury in November 2010. He spent four months in rehab, but put on extra weight during his break. When he returned to the mat, instead of trying to lose weight and compete with two-time world champion Kim Jae-bum in the under-81? class, Song decided to move up to under-90? with less than two years left until the London Olympics.
“It was a big risk, and I had trouble making adjustments,” Song said. “But I kept working and putting on muscle, and here I am today. I am pinching myself.”
Kim Ji-yeon completed the gold medal hat trick Wednesday by becoming the first South Korean fencer, male or female, to win a sabre gold. Her victory came just after male epee fencer Jung Jin-sun grabbed the bronze medal.
Since the controversy surrounding female epee fencer Shin A-lam’s semifinal defeat Monday, South Korea has picked up three fencing medals.
At the historic Wembley Stadium, the men’s football squad reached the Olympic quarterfinals for only the third time. Though the team managed just two goals in three group phase games, head coach Hong Myung-bo said the team will only look ahead to the knockout stage.
Awaiting Korea is host Britain, which beat Uruguay to close out the group stage Wednesday.
The otherwise upbeat day for South Korea wasn’t without its down moments. Two women’s badminton doubles teams were disqualified from the Olympics on charges of attempting to throw their group stage matches Tuesday. Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na and Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung had qualified for the quarters but their Olympic dreams are over.
They and two other teams, one from China and the other from Indonesia, were accused of trying to lose their matches on purpose to avoid high-ranked teams early in the knockout stage.
Weightlifter Sa Jae-hyouk, the 2008 gold medalist in men’s 77? category, crashed out of his title defense after breaking his right arm during a snatch attempt.
South Korea will look to female archers for another gold Thursday as Ki Bo-bae, Choi Hyeong-ju and Lee Sung-jin, who together won the team gold earlier, will battle for the individual title.