Jun Woong-tae makes Korean history in pentathlon

Jun Woong-tae poses after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the modern pentathlon at Tokyo Stadium, Aug. 7. Yonhap

By Lee Min-hyung

Jun Woong-tae has made history in the nation's Olympic modern pentathlon performance after clinching a surprise bronze medal ― the first for a Korean.

He emerged as the nation's first pentathlon medal hopeful back in March 2016 when he won the men's individual gold at the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne World Cup.

This was an outstanding feat for a Korean athlete to have won a medal in the global pentathlon event, as few players have ever done so. But Jun failed to repeat his strong performance at the previous Olympics, where he finished 19th due to his low fencing score. The modern pentathlon comprises five events ― fencing, freestyle swimming, show jumping, shooting and cross-country running.

But Jun, 26, achieved his long-held dream of winning an Olympic medal in Tokyo after earning 1,470 points in the five events. No Korean athlete had ever won any medals in the sport since the country started competing in it in the 1964 Olympics, also held in Tokyo.

"I won the bronze medal this time, but I want to show people that I can do better at the next Olympics," he told reporters in the post-match interview, Saturday.

He started his athletic career as a swimmer when he was 10. But he gave up his dream of becoming a national team swimmer and shifted to the modern pentathlon when he was in middle school. His career reached its peak in 2018 when he became the top-ranked athlete in the modern pentathlon after winning a gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

Jun was the final Korean medalist at the 2020 Olympics which closed Sunday afternoon. With Jun's bronze, Team Korea's medal tally reached six gold, four silver and 10 bronze.

On Saturday, the Korean Sports & Olympic Committee decided to name Jun a flag bearer for the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Only four athletes and 30 officials from the nation's Olympic delegation took part in the ceremony due to concerns over coronavirus spread there.

Jun Woong-tae, right, and Jung Jin-hwa compete in the laser-run event of the Olympics at Tokyo Stadium, Aug. 7. Yonhap

Jung Jin-hwa, another Korean pentathlete, finished fourth. This was the third time for the national team captain to have participated in the Olympics, but he ended up missing an opportunity to win a medal.

Jung scored 1,466 points in Tokyo, surpassing the scores from his previous two Olympic performances. His post-match interview also touched fans here.

"I felt at ease while running at Jun's back, even if I finished fourth," he said.

Lee Min-hyung mhlee@koreatimes.co.kr

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