Thursday, August 11, 2011

Exhibition to honor South Korean pioneering marathoner Sohn

Rare opportunity in the field of sports,

Visitors to the upcoming Daegu World Championships in Athletics, to be held Aug. 27 to Sept. 4, will have the opportunity to learn about marathoner Sohn Kee-chung, the nation’s first Olympic champion.

The Daegu National Museum launched a two-month special exhibition Tuesday, featuring the late marathoner’s treasured possessions accumulated since he was crowned an Olympic champion on Aug. 9, 1936.

Highlights include the gold medal he earned as a member of the Japanese delegation, since Korea was at the time a colony of Japan. The medal is being exhibited for the first time to the public.

The event is organized by the Seoul-based Sohn Kee-Chung Memorial Foundation, headed by Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the ruling Grand National Party.

For Koreans who remember him, it is an occasion to relive Sohn’s triumphant yet despairing Olympic experience, as the champion was not able to represent his motherland.

“This exhibition will serve as reminder to those who have forgotten our history and will renew our respect for Sohn’s outstanding achievements,” Kim said during an opening ceremony Tuesday. The exhibition will close on Oct. 2.

Born in 1914, Sohn was a promising runner from an early age. He was educated at the Meiji University in Japan.

At the 1988 Olympics Games in Seoul, Sohn made an emotional appearance as a torch bearer at the opening ceremony.

Before his death in 2002, he authored an autobiography entitled “My Motherland and Marathon.”

Although relatively unknown, Sohn was not the only Korean to stand on the podium of the 1936 Games.

Beside him on the bronze medalist’s stand was his teammate Nam Sung-yong (1912-2001), who also had to compete for Japan. He is the first Korean Olympic bronze medalist.

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