by Wade Townsend
Kim Song I from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea found herself just one match away from a medal on her Olympic Games debut.
It was the Women’s Singles bronze medal play-off, and her final hurdle to the podium was Japan’s Ai Fukuhara.
Kim felt the pressure going in to the match.
“At the Olympic Games there is only one bronze medal, which is different from the World Championships. I wanted to fight hard for my country, and win the match. I felt a great responsibility, as the world will know more about North Korea if I win the bronze medal. So I wanted to give my very best.”
The bronze medal play-off has been a match that has made heroes and caused heartbreak. There is only space on the podium for three.
On her Olympic Games debut Kim reserved her place. She dropped just one game in the bronze medal play-off.
“There is no words to describe how happy I was after winning. When the medal was hung around my neck, I felt very happy and proud that I brought glory to my own country.” Kim Song I
To make the day even more special, it was Kim’s 22nd birthday; she couldn’t have asked for a better present.
“Our great leader was very happy, as he followed my match and appreciated my play. It motivates me to work harder.” Kim Song I
When she returned home that appreciation was shown as the celebrations continued.
“There was a big party organised by our great leader for all medallists from Rio, so we went to a famous restaurant and had a good meal.”
And while the medal was won in Brazil, the Rio experience has followed her back home.
“I get recognised more often now and people are more concerned with my table tennis results. However, I will work harder to be more famous.”
While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is not the first country that springs to mind when thinking of a table tennis powerhouse, it should be. The nation has a strong legacy in the sport, and now has four table tennis medals from the Olympic Games to its name. Kim’s medal winning feat has sparked even more interest in the sport back home.
“Popularity of table tennis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been rising, and I hope the bronze medal will provide hope and belief for our rising stars that they have a chance to win a medal if they work hard.”
It is a positive attitude to take away from her Olympic experience.
Kim’s mind is always on improving, and her eye’s are firmly set on the future. In Tokyo 2020, Kim will be chasing even more success.
“I will work harder towards Tokyo, and I want to win a gold medal.”