S. Korea launches delegation for Tokyo Olympics

SEOUL-- South Korea embarked on a quest for a top-10 performance at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics with a launching ceremony for its delegation on Thursday, with the weary nation ready to lean on its Olympians for hope and inspiration during the global coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea will send 232 athletes and 122 officials in 29 out of 33 sports to the Japanese capital for the July 23-Aug. 8 competition.

The 32nd Summer Olympics were postponed by one year because of the coronavirus outbreak. With Tokyo still struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19, the multisport competition will be fraught with the kind of challenges that athletes haven't had to face before in earlier Olympics.

The stated objective for South Korea is to capture six to seven gold medals and rank inside the top 10 in the medal race. It would be the country's fifth consecutive top-10 showing at the Summer Games, dating back to the 2004 Athens.

Volleyball icon Kim Yeon-koung and rising swimming star Hwang Sun-woo will serve as South Korea's flag bearers at the opening ceremony.

Lee Kee-heung, head of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC), said athletes' health and safety will be of foremost concern.

"I am convinced that this year's Olympics will be a significant event, where we'll overcome the COVID-19 pandemic with the Olympic spirit founded on peace, tolerance and understanding," Lee said at the launching ceremony. "I hope you will all give your best effort and honor the spirit of fair play to accomplish your goals. And don't forget that South Korean people will be behind you along the way."

In his address to the athletes, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said he'll count on the Olympians to cheer up and inspire South Korean people during the pandemic.

"We believe in the power of sports. We've had great athletes give us hope whenever the country was going through difficult times," Kim said. "Now is your time. No matter what the final results will be, we would love to see you give your best effort until the very end."

Kim also expressed hope that the Olympics will provide an opportunity for peace and reconciliation, as participating athletes share the Olympic spirit of respect and friendship.

Kim Yeon-koung, the flag bearer and captain for all South Korean female athletes, said she will welcome the opportunity to galvanize the nation during the Olympics.

"We know a lot of people are behind us athletes, and we'll try to respond to their support in kind," Kim said. "A lot of people have been experiencing challenging times during the pandemic. Hopefully, we'll be able to give them something to cheer about."

Taekwondo's In Kyo-don, competing in his first Olympics, said he and his teammates are ready to deliver on the promise of multiple gold medals.

"We're aware of high expectations placed on our event, and I think we can live up to them," In said. He'll be one of six South Korean practitioners in the traditional Korean martial art in Tokyo.

"All six of us will try to bring home gold medals," he said. "Our events take place early in the Olympics, and we'll try to set the positive tone out of the gate."

Source: Yonhap News Agency