There’s plenty of pressure for a lot athletes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but it might not be bigger than it is for Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim. They either need to find a way to an Olympic medal, or serve two years in the South Korean military.
It’s standard practice for all men in the country to perform two years of service, but there are ways to get exemptions if you’re able to “enhance national prestige.” And one of those is picking up a medal at the Olympic or Asian Games.
Im is 23, so he’ll also get a chance at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. But this is the last shot for the 26-year-old Kim, who needs to win or start basic training. And two years out of regular competition might be enough to end a career, as it can be hard to find your A-game again if you don’t get to hit balls regularly.
The culture of South Korea frowns on exempting celebrities, but it has happened before. Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur led the nation to the 2018 Asian Games gold, as did former Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung in 2014. But the standards are extremely high for these exemptions for a reason.
Kim is +5000 to win gold at DraftKings Sportsbook, and Im is listed at +2500
So if you’re putting out on 18 at Kasumigaseki Country Club this Sunday and see Si Woo Kim in the hunt for a medal .. do you intentionally three-jack the last to save your fellow human from two years without freedom, even if it costs you a bronze medal??