SEOUL (Reuters) - Kim Yuna will not be around when the Winter Games come to Pyeongchang in 2018, but the South Korean figure skating queen has promised to give her all in the defense of her Olympic title in Sochi next year.
Kim blew away the competition in Vancouver three years ago to become the first South Korean to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal and is highly fancied to retain her title in the Russian Black Sea resort in February.
The 22-year-old joined speed skating gold medallist Lee Sang-hwa and other athletes, coaches and officials at the Taeneung National Training Center in northeastern Seoul on Friday to discuss South Korea’s preparations for the Games.
“I won’t be able to compete in Pyeongchang in 2018 but I will prepare hard for Sochi without getting injured and perform without any regrets,” said Kim.
“I hope those who do not participate in 2014 but dream about being part of the Olympic Games do not give up and try hard.”
Sports minister Yoo Jin-ryong said the country’s new president had a keen interest in boosting Korea’s sporting prowess on the international stage.
”President Park Geun-hye is immensely interested in what the government can do to better improve conditions (for athletes), said Yoo. “Through your performance in the Games, you will give Koreans hope and pride.”
South Korea’s slogan for the Games, “Team Korea, Fly 204”, symbolizes their determination to spread the Olympic spirit among the IOC’s 204 member nations.
After winning six golds and 14 medals to finish fifth in Vancouver, South Korea is targeting at least four golds in Sochi and 20 medals overall for a top-four finish in 2018.
The Korean Olympic Committee has extended the training period for Sochi-bound athletes to 240 days from 210 days for Vancouver to give South Korean athletes more time to prepare.
Speed skater Lee, who won a gold medal in the 500 meters in Vancouver, also read out a resolution from the team with paralympian sledge ice hockey captain Han Min-su.
“We will achieve the best results not only in Sochi but also in Pyeongchang so that we can continue the status of South Korea as a nation of strong athletic performance,” she said.
Editing by Peter Rutherford