A premature victory celebration cost South Korea a gold medal at the Asian Games and means that members of the team must now complete at least 18 months of national service.
It is obligatory in South Korea for men aged between 18 and 28 to take part in full national service but there are sporting exemptions for victory in either the Olympics or Asian Games.
This dispensation had looked certain to be enacted when Jung Cheol-won led into the final straight of the 3,000m roller-skating relay before he made the fatal mistake of easing up shortly before the finish to raise his hands in celebration. Jung was evidently unaware that Taiwan’s Huang Yu-Lin was closing fast and, as they crossed the line together, it was initially unclear who had won. The computerised timing system eventually confirmed that Taiwan had clinched gold by just 0.01 seconds. (Watch the end of the race below).
Never celebrate too early.
เมื่อวานนี้ Huang Yu-lin นักกีฬาโรลเลอร์สเก็ตชาย 3,000 เมตรของ #จีนไทเป คว้าเหรียญทองที่ 11 ให้กับประเทศที่ #AsianGames ในนครหางโจว #จีน โดยเข้าสู่เส้นชัยเฉือน Jung Cheol-won นักกีฬาเกาหลีใต้เพียง 0.01 วินาที
เหตุ Jung Cheol-won นักโรลเลอร์สเก็ต… pic.twitter.com/NGS1VoTnDO
— pone poyepoloye (@motorwars) October 3, 2023
Jung is 27 and his team-mate, Choi In-ho, is only 23, meaning that he is now also obliged to take part in national service which will last for between 18 and 21 months.
“I made a rather big mistake,” said Jung. “I didn’t come at full speed to the finish line. I let my guard down too early. I am very sorry.”
Huang, who had been disqualified in the 1,000m sprint, had been undecided whether to even compete in the relay until shortly before the race. He also did not initially think that he had caught Jung.
“I kept telling myself I was not willing to compete today but then I looked back at some old posts on social media to encourage myself,” he said.
“I thought it was such a shame that I was just a little bit short, and then the results came up on the screen showing that we had won by one hundredth of a second, and it was just a miracle.”
There was rather better news, however, for South Korea’s best golfers.
Kim Si-woo, who is ranked 27th in the world, and Im Sung-jae, who is ranked 40th, helped their country win an Asian Games gold over second-placed Thailand.
It means that they are now both exempt from a full period of national service.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min was also excused the full 18 to 21 months after helping South Korea to victory in the 2018 Asian Games but did complete a much shorter period when the Premier League was suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The three weeks were tough but it was a good experience... I enjoyed it,” said Son.