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Sohn Kee-chung

Sohn Kee-chung, or in revised[?] romanisation, Son Gi-jung (손기정 ; 孫基禎) (1912 - 2000), was the first award-winning Korean Olympian, with his teammate Nam Sung-yong.

Born in Sineui-Ju (신의주; 新義州), North Pyongan Do on August 29, Sohn Kee-chung was educated at Yangjung High School (양정고등학교) and Meiji University (明治大學). He participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics as a Marathon runner who finished 42.195 kilometres in 2-hours, 39-minutes, and 19.2-seconds. He broke the world record and received the gold medal.

Sohn Kee-chung was forced by the Japanese Empire to use the Japanese name Kitei Son (ソン・ギジョン). However, Sohn Kee-chung refused to sign his names in Japanese during the Olympics, and sometimes even sketched the shape of Korea beside his signatures. When interviewers asked him about his country, he would clarify that Korea is his mother country, not Japan.

When he received the award, so overcame with emotion that the flag rising was of the Empire of Japan and not of Korea, he shed tears.

One of Korea's local newspaper, Dong-a Ilbo (東亞日報) (East Asia Daily), purposefully did not include the Japanese flag in the photo of Sohn Kee-chung receiving the award. And this act so enraged the Imperial Japanese Government-General that 8 newspaper personnels were imprisoned, and the East Asia Daily were forced to stop operation for 9 or 10 months.

After the Olympics, he coached runners like:

Eventually, he became the Chairman of the Korean Sporting Association.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics, he carried the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony. He wrote an autobiography called My Motherland and Marathon (___ ; 《我的祖國和我的馬拉松》). He was honoured with Citizen's Merit Award (___ ; 國民勛章) and posthumously, the Cheongryong Medal and Blue Dragon Order.

Sohn Kee-chung died at the age of 90 at midnight on November 15, 2000 due to pneumonia, and was buried in the Daejun National Cemetery. The Sohn Kee-jung Memorial Park was made.

See also: Jesse Owens, to whom Sohn Kee-chung has been compared to.



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