South Korean sports stars Chung Hyeon and Park Hang-seo have grabbed the headlines in recent days thanks to their stunning achievements.
Tennis player Chung reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, while soccer coach Park led the Vietnamese Under-23 team to the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship.
Chung’s great run at the Grand Slam event helped to raise interest in tennis in Korea, while coach Park's performance also exhilarated many at home.
Chung, who started the Australian Open ranked number 58 in the world, drew a lot of attention as he defeated higher ranked players to earn the nickname "giant killer."
In his third round match, Chung beat number four seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in five sets. Then in the round of 16, Chung defeated former World Number One Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim the biggest win of his career.
American Tennys Sandgren, ranked 97th and whom Chung beat in the quarterfinals, was the only opponent with a lower ranking than the South Korean.
In the semis, Chung faced the Swiss legend Roger Federer. Some had expected him to continue his good form and reach the final, but unfortunately the 21-year-old was forced to retire from the match due to blisters on his foot.
Despite the fact that Chung’s run at the tournament came to a disappointing end, there are plenty of positives to take from it. He became the first South Korean to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam event, and his ranking also rose to 29, the highest ever for a South Korean.
Coach Park Hang-seo's achievement is similarly impressive. Team Vietnam defeated one powerhouse after another and dramatically reached the final of the AFC U-23 Championship held in China.
Although Vietnam suffered a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Uzbekistan in the final, Park had already become a national hero in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s run to the final was the best recorded performance in the tournament by the nation and indeed any Southeast Asian country.
In Asian football, Northeast Asia and the Middle East are considered the super powers, with Central Asia regarded as a newly emerging force. So Vietnam achieved something miraculous in China thanks to Park's leadership, which helped take them to a new level.
Park and the team received a heroes’ welcome upon their return to Vietnam, and the Korean coach was even hosted by national leaders and presented with a meritorious order.
Chung’s strong performance helped to raise the profile of tennis in Korea, while Park's accomplishment, even though it was for Vietnam, came as heartwarming news to Koreans at home.