Korean fencers have created a sensation by amassing six medals in the 2012 London Olympics. The Korean team added a gold in the men's team sabre and a silver in the women's team epee on Saturday, bringing the total to two gold, one silver and three bronze, which is on a par only with Italy out of the 44 countries that competed in fencing. Italy won two of every color of medal.
The achievement came despite the judging controversy that cost Shin A-lam her chance to advance to the women's epee final.
Korea has no particularly conducive environment for fencing. There are only 1,450 registered fencers here, and no fencers and teams in elementary schools. In France, the birthplace of the modern sport, there are over 100,000 athletes.
Korean fencing team head coach Kim Yong-yul said, "In France, there are fencing clubs every district in every town, just like taekwondo clubs in Korea. There's a great gap in foundation skills between Korean fencers and European fencers who take up the sport at the age of five or six."
Korea therefore made its name in the fencing world relatively late, when Kim Young-ho won gold in the men's individual foil and Lee Sang-ki bronze in the men's individual epee at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Nam Hyun-hee raised hopes further when she grabbed a silver medal in the women's individual foil at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with nimble footwork defying her diminutive height of 154 cm.
Korean fencers and staff slogged their guts out in training for the last four years, and their efforts paid off beyond anyone's expectations.