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By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 7 (Yonhap) -- Top South Korean winter sports officials and athletes Friday reaffirmed their resolve to be successful at the next two Winter Games, announcing steps to improve training environments and introduce scientific approach to Olympic preparations.
About 150 officials and athletes descended on the National Training Center in Seoul for an event to declare their goals for successful Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and then in PyeongChang, a South Korean alpine town, in 2018.
Yoo Jin-ryong, minister of culture, sports and tourism, Kim Jin-sun, chief organizer of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Kim Jung-haeng, president of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) were among sports officials in attendance. They were joined by figure skater Kim Yu-na and speed skaters Lee Sang-hwa and Mo Tae-bum, all gold medalists from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The Vancouver Games were South Korea's most successful Winter Olympics, as it captured six gold medals as part of the record 14 medals overall. The six gold medals came from three different sports: short track speed skating, speed skating and figure skating.
To build on the momentum, the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) unveiled a series of measures to bolster the athletes' training programs and to strengthen winter sports at the grassroots level.
According to the KOC, the number of winter sports athletes training for the Sochi Olympics will be pushed up from 147 to 184 this year. The designated number of days for training will also increase from 210 to 240 days.
The KOC also said it will allow more athletes to train overseas and will supply them with expert trainers and physical therapists.
"Our goal at Sochi is to win at least four gold medals and rank in the top seven in the medal table," the KOC said. "We will offer our athletes systematic and scientific support."
The KOC said it will take a long-term view on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the first Winter Games to be held in South Korea, and try to nurture young talent over the next five years.
According to the KOC, from a pool of about 5,700 athletes, 178 athletes aged between 12 and 28 will be picked in seven sports under the national development project. It will run until 2017, one year before the PyeongChang Olympics, and these 178 prospects will compete for the final national team spots with incumbent members.
"The project's aim is to give young athletes an opportunity to compete in the Olympics," the KOC said. "This will also promote healthy competition between them and current national team athletes."
The KOC summed up the country's goal at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the number '204.' It represents South Korea's drive to win at least 20 medals to reach No. 4 in the medal standings. The numeral also equals the number of member states of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
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