LONDON (Reuters) - South Korea’s Oh Jin-hyek sat back in his chair, looked at the Olympic archery gold medal around his neck, then took a long, slow swig from a chilled bottle of Coke - the “Soft Drink Pig” had never been happier.
The chunky Korean, saddled with the unflattering nickname due to his fondness for fizzy drinks, upstaged his younger team mates at Lord’s cricket ground on Friday to end his country’s long wait for the men’s individual gold.
In his first Olympics, Oh also won bronze in the team event.
However, he does not have bragging rights over his girlfriend. Ki Bo-bae won the individual gold medal 24 hours earlier, and her team gold trumps his team bronze.
Oh had battled to force his way onto the mighty Korean archery team for a decade, trying out for every Olympic squad since the 2000 Sydney Games.
He made sure he savored every moment of his time in London.
“When I was younger I imagined being a gold medalist at the Olympics,” the 30-year-old told reporters. “But as time went by, my results weren’t good enough to make it to the Olympics.
“It was a long way to reach this moment. I wanted to have no regrets. I shot every arrow as if it were my last.”
Standing proud on the podium, hand over his heart and Korean anthem in his ears, Oh was surprised the emotion of the moment did not get to him.
“I expected to cry but now I am just overawed by all the attention that the media is giving me,” he said.
“I knew I could do it but I wasn’t completely sure. I felt like I was flying out there. It’s strange - I don’t feel like crying at this moment.”
South Korea still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the world, but other countries are catching up - partly because they are hiring Korean coaches.
World archery’s decision to go with a set-based format instead of an overall score system in the head-to-head knockout rounds has also chipped away at the Koreans’ dominance.
But Oh said the Korean team would never become complacent and would continue to practice with both formats in the future to see off all challengers.
“Whether it’s the overall score or the set score, at the end of the day the archer who shoots best wins.”
Korea head coach Jang Young-sool could hardly stop smiling.
After Oh, Im Dong-hyun and Kim Bub-min had broke the team 72 arrow world record in the ranking round on the first day of the Games, most thought the others would be playing for silver.
Few expected the United States to bring South Korea’s run of three consecutive team titles to an end.
Jang said that semi-final defeat had made it even more important to win the individual gold medal for the first time.
“There was a high expectation for the gold as they missed out in the men’s team event,” he added.
“This is the first individual men’s gold - we are very pleased. This is a turning point in Korea’s archery.”
Oh said he was looking forward to celebrating with his team mates, and tempered reports he and Ki were preparing to marry.
“It’s true that we have a very good relationship but we don’t any specific plans to get married,” he added.
“But when we return to Korea I sincerely hope our relationship continues and if we can get married, why not?”
Two Korean archers tying the knot would not be a first - gold medal winners Park Sung-hyun and Park Kyung-mo announced their engagement at the end of the Beijing Olympics.
Editing by Alison Williams