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Lim wants to be synonymous with short track

Speed skater says now that he has won gold, he has higher goals
Mar 06,2018
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Clockwise from left: Lim Hyo-jun during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on March 2 at a cafe in Gangnam, southern Seoul; gifts and letters sent by fans to his sports agency, Brion Company; Lim falls during the men’s 5,000-meter relay final at PyeongChang on Feb. 22. [CHOI SEUNG-SHIK, BRION COMPANY, NEWS1]
Short-track speed skater Lim Hyo-jun won gold at the PyeongChang Olympics, but he didn’t expect he would walk out with 50 times more fans.

“People barely recognized me before,” Lim said, “but I’m really grateful for everyone. I gave my first autograph after [the Games].”

Lim’s popularity soared after he won Korea’s first gold medal at the 2018 Winter Games in the men’s 1,500 meters last month.

“It was only four years ago that I watched the Olympics on my TV at home,” said Lim, recounting his experience during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo last Friday. “After winning gold, I thought to myself, ‘I really did it.’ Even though I couldn’t sleep at all after, I wasn’t one bit tired the next day. I felt dazed and really happy at the same time.”

Going into the Games, Lim only had 6,000 followers on his Instagram account, but after PyeongChang, the gold medalist has about 300,000. Now his agency is flooded with fan letters, gifts and even requests to make character items with Lim’s image, similar to the ones made for Korean idols.

But more than anything, Lim just wanted to eat a burger after bagging gold.

“I think one [burger] will be fine,” Lim said after the race.

To be in his best shape for the Games, Lim cut out all fast and instant food from his diet. Though he could’ve grabbed a burger for free at McDonald’s any time during his stay at the Olympic Village, he never stepped inside.

“Even after snatching gold,” said Lim, “I knew I still had several races left, so I restrained myself. But after the Olympics, I ate some meat.”

President Moon Jae-in sent Lim a congratulatory letter after his success at the 1,500-meter race.

“Lim Hyo-jun has shown our citizens what bravery and overcoming difficulties is like,” the letter read.

Even after undergoing seven surgeries, Lim never gave up on his dream. Lim claims there isn’t a body part he hasn’t injured - he’s hurt his knee, wrist, ankle and hip, and on foggy or rainy days, his body aches.

“I’ve come to the point where I can guess the weather before checking,” Lim said. “Though I’ve thought about quitting sports several times, I was able to endure it all by focusing on the PyeongChang Olympics. I’m happy I achieved my dream.”

But PyeongChang wasn’t all positive for Lim. The Olympian also had some disappointing moments, including the last day of the short-track event.

At the 5,000-meter relay, Lim fell while turning the corner. His mistake cost Korea a highly anticipated medal at the relay, with the team coming in last out of four teams.

Lim couldn’t hold his head up after the game and burst into tears, while his teammates tried to console him.

“I thought for a second that I was dreaming when I fell,” recalled Lim. “I couldn’t hear anything. I was so angry at myself and threw my helmet in the locker room. Even though my teammates gave me a hug, I felt so sorry and cried up a storm.”

Lim said he learned a lot from his teammates.

“The one year that I spent on the team has been a turning point for me,” said the 21-year-old skater. “I’ve also dreamed about what it would be like if in four years, I could enter the Beijing Olympics with the same members.”

Though the Olympics are over, Lim was quick to get back to his training, heading straight for the Jincheon National Training Center in North Chungcheong to prepare for the International Skating Union’s Montreal World Championships in Canada on March 16.

“Before, my goal was making it to the PyeongChang Olympics,” said Lim. “But now, I want people to think ‘Lim Hyo-jun’ when they hear about short track.”

For now, Lim is focused on sweeping medals at the World Championships.

“I think if I go in with my mind at ease and have fun, I will see good results,” said Lim.

The short-track team will fly to Canada on Sunday to compete at the World Championships.

BY KIM HYO-KYUNG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]