Park Geun-hye

Week 16 (4 - 10 January 2014)

The final weeks of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's five-year tenure in office will coincide with the Olympic spotlight falling on PyeongChang in 2018 – and this week she set out a blueprint for how her nation's athletes should approach competing in an Olympic Winter Games, when delivering a heart-warming sports message in Seoul.

Park visited South Korea's Sochi 2014-bound team at their National Training Centre and encouraged them, above all else, to enjoy the experience of representing their country in Russia.

"I hope all of you can enjoy the sporting event and just do your best, doing what you love the most," she said.

There were no calls for the 15 speed skaters, 10 short track speed skaters, three figure skaters and five curlers who have already booked their Olympic spots to deliver a "gold rush" or "set a high standard" for 2018. Simply being an Olympian, trying to perform at your highest level, was defined as glory.

She said: "I appreciate all the athletes and coaches who bring joy and inspiration to the people and I hope all of you can achieve your goals at the upcoming Games.

"Korea's winter sports have a great future ahead of them thanks to excellent athletes like Kim Yuna (Vancouver 2010 gold medallist in figure skating). She's a great motivation for younger athletes."

As her nation's first female president, Park is a political trailblazer in South Korea. But she is no stranger to the president's Blue House - it was also her childhood home. Her father, Park Chung-hee, ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979.

Yet power, and her journey to power, have not eroded her caring nature – her words this week showed this, and South Korea's athletes are probably very grateful.

Pressure of any kind can do strange things to an athlete. Winter sports, even more than summer sports, are about fine margins; in such an environment, pressure, fear, and how athletes deal with them, can mean the difference between gold and sliding into the crash mats. Park has tried to alleviate some of that pressure – and set the tone for South Korea's approach to their own Games in four years' time.

Photo: License. The original image has been altered for editorial purposes.