Kim Dong-Moon – Turning Failures to Gold Medals

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Badminton is a sport that rewards the skilled but enshrines the consistent. One player who has embodied consistency and tenacity on the court is a South Korean doubles specialist who dominated the 90s — Kim Dong-Moon.

Kim Dong-Moon was one of the most dominant men’s and mixed doubles players from South Korea in the 90s. A three-time Olympian, Kim Dong-Moon put the badminton world on notice with his thrilling performance at the 1996 Olympics. Among his accolades are three World titles and more than 50 Grand Prix titles. He also has two International Badminton Federation (IBF) titles. He has partnered with numerous South Korean players, but his most successful partnerships have been with Ha Tae-Kwon, Gil Young-Ah, and Ra Kyung-Min.

Kim Dong-Moon’s career is one of the most successful of any badminton player in any division. Let’s take a closer look at one of the most successful doubles specialists in badminton history!

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Early Life

Kim Dong-Moon was born on September 22, 1975, in Gokseong, South Korea. Born to a family of six children, Kim Dong-Moon was the youngest child.

When he was old enough to go to school, he went to Jinbuk Elementary School. It was here where he had his first experiences with sports. Kim Dong-Moon dabbled in baseball and volleyball. but he gravitated towards badminton.

One day, the school held badminton tryouts. The school’s coach, Im Chae Kyung, was to select four players from a pool of students. Kim Dong-Moon tried out. Also among the hopefuls was another young player who naturally took to badminton — Ha Tae-Kwon.

Together, Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon tried out, but didn’t make the team. Luckily, Kim Dong-Moon tried out again six months later. His efforts proved fruitful, as he managed to make the team.

With Kim’s recommendation, coach Im handpicked Ha Tae-Kwon. Since their absorption into the elementary school team, Kim and Ha began their badminton journeys together.

Kim’s Youth Debut

Upon reaching middle school, Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon were favorites in local inter-school tournaments. In 1992, the pair had already chalked up victories together and with different players.

The pair’s frequent appearances warranted a sabbatical of sorts. Having won nearly every championship in their hometown, Kim and Ha took a break. However, they returned to active competition as soon as the first opportunity to play presented itself. This opportunity came in the form of the 1992 Wimbledon International.

It was here where Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon competed outside of South Korea for the first time. Despite being juniors, the pair had no qualms about going toe to toe with more experienced players from all over the world.

Impressively, Kim and Ha made it past the round of 16 after defeating England’s Nitin Panesar and Norman Wheatley. Advancing to the quarterfinals, Kim Dong-Moon and Ha Tae-Kwon faced Andy Goode and Chris Hunt. As expected, the more experienced Goode and Hunt made short work of the younger pair of Kim and Ha, beating them in straight sets.

The loss did little to deter Kim Dong-Moon from competing. After the Wimbledon International, he jumped at the next opportunity to compete — the 1992 World Junior Championships.

At the 1992 World Junior Championships, Kim and Ha competed separately. Kim Dong-Moon played in the boys’ and mixed doubles events. For the boys’ doubles event, Kim paired up with a young Hwang Sun-Ho.

The pair put on an impressive performance, making it as far as the semi-finals. Unfortunately, they lost at the hands of Indonesia’s Sigit Budiarto and Namrih Suroto. The loss meant that Kim and Hwang had to settle for bronze — a decent finish for a player’s outing debut on the world stage.

For the mixed doubles event, Kim played alongside Kim Shin-Young. The pair dominated their opponents to reach the finals, where Denmark’s Rikke Olsen and Jim Laugesen were waiting.

The final match went the way of the Danish team. Despite losing, Kim Dong-Moon and Kim Shin-Young won silver. So, in total, Kim Dong-Moon bagged two medals in his World Junior Championship debut.

Kim’s Early Senior Career

By 1993, Kim Dong-Moon was already a senior player. He debuted as a senior at the 1993 Chinese Taipei Masters, where he paired up with Lee Yong-Sun for the men’s doubles event. Kim and Lee advanced as far as the quarter-finals only to suffer defeat at the hands of Taiwan’s Shin-Ming Ger and Shih-Jeng Yang.

Putting the loss down to a lack of experience, Kim Dong-Moon and Lee Yong-Shin competed at the 1993 Japan Open. Sadly, Kim and Lee failed to advance past the round of 32 after losing to Japan’s Hiroki Eto and Tatsuya Yanagiya.

Unrelenting in the pursuit of their first title, Kim and Lee set their sights on the 1993 Korea Open. Despite having the home court advantage, Kim and Lee failed to get past the round of 16 after losing to China’s Zhanzhong Huang and Yumin Zheng.

The string of early-round eliminations plagued the pair’s 1993 campaign; many others in their shoes would have abandoned the competition.

However, it’s as they say: change the approach, but not the goal.

In Kim Dong-Moon’s case, the necessary adjustment was simple — change partners.

1995: When Things Started Clicking

Kim Dong-Moon and Lee Yong-Shin parted ways after the 1993 Korea Open. In 1994, Kim partnered with several other shuttlers, including Choi Ji-Tae, Yoo Yong-Sung, and Choi Ma-Ree.

The partnership with Choi Ji-Tae was the first to bear fruit as he and Kim Dong-Moon won bronze at the 1994 Korea Open. Unfortunately, the pair never chalked up a podium finish after that.

Kim Dong-Moon sought other partners in the latter part of 1994. Towards the end of 1994, Kim Dong-Moon paired up again with Kim Shin-Young for mixed doubles matches. For men’s doubles events, Kim Dong-Moon partnered with Kang Kyung-Jin.

Kim Dong-Moon and Kim Shin-Young kicked off 1995 on a high note at the Chinese Taipei Open. The pair bagged a runner-up finish, besting the seasoned duo of Gillian Gowers and Michael Sogaard.

The Kim-Kang connection also showed promise as the pair chalked up an impressive finish at the 1995 Swedish Open. Kim Dong-Moon and Kang Kyung-Jin dominated the men’s doubles event, blowing past Indonesia’s Ade Sutrisna and Candra Wijaya in the semi-finals. Kim and Kang’s performance at the event led to a runner-up finish.

In the same tournament, Kim Dong-Moon competed in the mixed doubles event. This time, he chose to pair up with Gil Young-Ah. The newly formed pair performed amazingly at the Swedish Open and went as far as the finals. While they lost to China’s Chen Xingdong and Wang Xiaoyuan, they won silver in their first outing.

Kim Dong-Moon also landed a podium-worthy finish at the 1995 Asian Badminton Championships. Competing in the mixed doubles event, he partnered with Kim Shin-Young. The pair advanced as far as the semi-finals and won bronze at the tournament.

Having played in enough tournaments to qualify, Kim Dong-Moon competed at the 1995 World Championships. For the men’s doubles event, he struck a partnership with Yoo Yung-Sung. Losing to Denmark’s Jon Holst-Christensen and Thomas Lund in the semi-finals, Kim and Yoo settled for bronze.

After the World Championships, Kim Dong-Moon competed at the 1995 Malaysia Open, where he teamed up again with Gil Young-Ah. The pair went on a tear in the mixed doubles event, making it as far as the finals. There, they faced China’s Xiaoqiang Tao and Xiaoyuan Wang. Kim and Gil dominated their Chinese opponents, winning the match in straight sets. This victory snagged the pair their first gold medal.

The gold medal finish set the tone for the rest of Kim Dong-Moon’s 1995 campaign; towards the end of 1995, Kim Dong-Moon bagged more medals at various major tournaments, including the 1995 Badminton World Cup and the Singapore Open.

With Gil Young-Ah, Kim Dong-Moon also won back-to-back titles in the U.S. Open and Canada Open.

Winning a dozen medals in 1995, things were looking up for Kim Dong-Moon’s career.

Olympic Success

By 1996, Kim Dong-Moon had already caught the attention of the badminton world, positioning himself as a versatile and up-and-coming talent in doubles badminton. After competing at the 1996 All-England, he set his sights on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he played in the men’s and mixed doubles events.

Bowing out early in the men’s doubles event, Kim Dong-Moon sought redemption. With the help of Gil Young-Ah, Kim Dong-Moon reached the finals of the mixed doubles event. Awaiting them was another South Korean pair famous for their experience on the court — Park Joo-Bong and Ra Kyung-Min.

Kim and Gil lost the first game by a narrow margin. In the second game, Kim Dong-Moon and Gil Young-Ah came from behind, beating Park and Ra decisively.

In the third game, Kim and Gil did their best to prevent their compatriots from snatching victory. Kim and Gil emerged victorious, winning the 1996 Olympics and the recognition of the entire badminton world.

Kim Dong-Moon’s 1996 Olympic gold medal victory propelled him to instant stardom. However, refusing to rest on his laurels, Kim played in two more Olympic events in 2000 and 2004.

At the 2000 Olympics, Kim Dong-Moon reunited with Ha Tae-Kwon for the men’s doubles event. The pair advanced as far as the semi-finals. Sadly, the pair lost to Indonesia’s Tony Gunawan and Candra Wijaya. The loss conferred Kim and Ha the bronze medal.

Indomitable as always, Kim Dong-Moon competed again at the 2004 Olympics. He paired up again with Ha Tae-Kwon and dominated the entire men’s doubles event. In the final, they faced their compatriots, Lee Dong-Soo and Yoo Yong-Sung.
Kim and Ha were unyielding in their attacks and rallies. They defeated their opponents in straight sets, winning the match and Kim Dong-Moon’s second Olympic gold.

In total, Kim Dong-Moon has two Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal. His gold medal tallies at the Olympics make him the only South Korean player to win Olympic gold in two different divisions and the only South Korean player to win Olympic gold medals eight years apart.

Dominant Years with Ra Kyung-Min

One of the most successful partnerships Kim Dong-Moon has had in the court (and out of it) was with Ra Kyung-Min. Ra Kyung-Min was instrumental in Kim Dong-Moon’s grip on the mixed doubles division. As one columnist put it, the pair seemed invincible, tearing through the mixed doubles division from 1997 – 2004.

Kim Dong-Moon and Ra Kyung-Min are multiple-time Asian Champions. They were the Asian Champions in 1998 and 1999 and they also won the titles in 2001 and 2004, bringing their Asian Championship tally to four.

They were also two-time World Champions. They won their first World Championship title at the 1999 World Championships. It was also in this edition of the World Championships where Kim Dong-Moon won the men’s doubles event with Ha Tae-Kwon. Kim and Ra regained the World Championships again in 2003 after defeating Zhang Jun and Gao Ling in the finals.

Kim Dong-Moon and Ra Kyung-Min also won 36 Grand Prix titles from 1997 – 2004, including four All-England Opens! Between 2003 and 2004, the pair also went on an undefeated 10-tournament streak — a record that Kim Dong-Moon and Ra Kyung-Min are famous for.

Retirement and Life After Badminton

Kim Dong-Moon retired after winning the 2004 Olympics with Ha Tae-Kwon. Three years after retirement, Kim Dong-Moon married fellow badminton legend and longtime mixed doubles partner, Ra Kyung-Min.

Kim Dong-Moon and Ra Kyung-Min are now residents of Calgary, Alberta, where Kim Dong-Moon coaches badminton full-time. Kim Dong-Moon is also a frequent commentator for badminton events in South Korea. He also enjoyed short stints as an exercise physiology lecturer.

In 2009, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) inducted Kim Dong-Moon and his wife Ra Kyung-Min into the Badminton Hall of Fame together.

Kim Dong-Moon: Resilience, Consistency, and Dominance

It’s easy to base the greatness of a badminton legend on winning streaks and achievements. Indeed, we find these and more in Kim Dong-Moon’s career. Nonetheless, a closer look at his career will also reveal failure and setbacks that he had to overcome.

By shining the spotlight on Kim Dong-Moon’s success and the setbacks that preceded it, we find more than a dominant player; we find that beneath his success is an indomitable spirit that isn’t afraid to face failure and overcome it.

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