- 17 Sep 1988
- Seoul 1988
Wrestler Kim starts off South Korea's party
South Korea scored some notable victories as hosts in the 1988 Olympics but none was celebrated with quite so much passion and joy as that of Kim-Young-nam.
It was one of the least expected but crucially it was the host nation’s first, and set off a mass sigh of relief from a country eager to showcase itself to the rest of the world.
Prior to Kim’s success the Koreans had won only a handful of medals in Greco-Roman wrestling, and only one gold in Olympic history.
That didn’t stop the crowds pouring into the Seongnam Gymnasium, one of the few events to be staged away from Seoul, when the tournament got under way.
Kim spent many of his formative years playing volleyball yet as his physique developed and success arrived in wrestling at high school it became clear which route his career would take.
So poor was his school that he practised on the gymnasium’s wooden floor covered in dried rice plant stalks to soften the blow from the crunching moves he would practise.
Kim entered the 1988 Games with mixed memories from Los Angeles four years previously. He had performed creditably to reach the semi-finals in the welterweight division before he was eliminated.
He was then taught a lesson in the bronze medal playoff by former Olympic champion Stefan Rusu, the Romanian pounding the 24-year-old Kim 6-1.
Undeterred he maintained an intense training regime and was rewarded with gold at the Asian Games of 1986, also held in South Korea.
In the final Kim was drawn against Daulet Turlykhanov, a Kazakhstani of Korean descent representing Russia.
The Russian took the early 1-0 lead but a scintillating spinning manoeuvre from Kim earned him a two-point score which defended valiantly for the remainder of the bout.
Kim could barely contain his joy as the clock ran down, performing an ecstatic lap of honour before collapsing into the arms of his coach.