45-year-old Korea’s best libero “Winning, I have to challenge again”

Volleyball player Libero Yeo Oh-hyun (45, Hyundai Capital)’s total number of regular league appearances in the V-League. In order to feel this number more, it is good to compare it to 637 games, which is the sum of all the games a team can play in the 19 seasons from the first year of the V-League 2005 to the 2022-2023 season. The participation rate is 94.6%. Excluding the last three seasons, when the absence was ‘relatively’ frequent, it rises to 98.1% (519 out of 529 games). If you add 76 postseason games and 55 cup games, it will easily exceed 700 games.

Yeo Oh-hyun, whom we met on the 15th at the Castle of Skywalkers in Cheonan, Chungcheongnam-do, said, “It’s been a long time.” Saying he’s been around for a long time also means that he was a player the team needed. The team needs good players.

Most of the all-time records in the V-League defense category belong to Yeo Oh-hyun. As of the 25th, they are 1st in total receiving (7921), 1st in dig (5201), and 1st in defensive success (13,122). The number of victories in the regular league is 414 times (68.66% win rate), which is the highest ever. The V-League championship was 7 times during Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and 2 times during Hyundai Capital. In addition, there are many records and awards.

Libero Oh Hyun Yeo
“The first was the libero system. After that, I joined Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance and became a national team player, and won a gold medal in the Asian Games (Busan 2002) and was exempted from military service, and the team also achieved success. (July 2013) After moving to Hyundai Capital, I met director Choi Tae-woong and even did the ’45-year-old project’. Even if I think about it, I think the timing and luck were good players. He met good leaders as well.”

When asked about the milestones of his volleyball life, as many points as his long career were listed. Regarding the libero system in particular, he said, “If it hadn’t happened, my career as a player would have ended after graduating from college.”

His height is 175 cm. He is short for a volleyball player. There was a volleyball club in elementary school, and he got into volleyball, but he didn’t grow tall even after he went to middle and high school. Judging that her future as an athlete was bleak, the coach suggested Oh-hyeon Yeo switch to weightlifting, wrestling, and judo, and received a real test. But he continued playing volleyball. “I just wanted to play volleyball.”

In 1998, his opportunity came. The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) officially introduces the ‘defense specialist’ libero position. He didn’t have to be tall because he couldn’t attack, block, or serve. Yeo Oh-hyun, who was an outside hitter (OH) at Hongik University at the time, turned to the libero a few months later. he was confident “Now they call me a defensive OH. He did attack with OH in college, but he was confident enough to do it for about half of his receiving.”

In a sport where you have to score points to win, the spotlight is mainly on the strikers. However, Yeo Oh-hyun was a defender who could bring the spotlight to herself. The stronger his opponent, the bigger the stage, the more his true value was revealed.

Yeo Oh-hyun, who wore the Taegeuk mark in 2001, played an active role as the main libero for 12 years until 2012. In the year of his retirement, in the World League (predecessor of Volleyball Nations League VNL), he ranked first in receiving (73.24% success rate) and third in dig (2.53 per set). Coach Bernardo Hezenji, a world-renowned coach, praised Yeo Oh-hyun as “a player who can play right away in the European big leagues” in the past. In 2004, a transfer offer came from an actual overseas league, but unfortunately it did not come through.

His value shone even when world-class players such as Simon (2014-2015, 2015-2016 seasons) and Grozer (2015-2016 season) came to the V-League as free agents. He was selected in the Best 7 Libero category for two consecutive seasons in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons. “When the world-class mercenaries played in the V-League, they served very well. I think the value of the libero has increased because I had to receive a strong serve. I thought I should get better too.”

600 games made by consistency

All-in-one mind-set. When asked for his motto, he said: “I liked the meaning that everything depends on one’s mind.” Born in 1978, at the age of 45 this year, he is the oldest professional volleyball player, but it suits him well, who is competing with younger juniors with his skills.

A big part of my mindset as an athlete is the desire to win. He hates to lose even in simple bets and minigames. “I also think that my juniors will be afraid of me. He didn’t want to lose during the game, so he used to say it strongly with the intention of doing well, but it’s too late to think that it could put pressure on the juniors. Sometimes juniors first tell me, ‘Don’t get too excited’. I have to take care of myself, but that doesn’t work well during the game. (Laughs)”

In his mobile messenger profile status message, there is a phrase ‘Joseungjagang (自勝者强)’ along with ‘Everything is mindful’. It means ‘to overcome oneself is called strength’. The record of 600 regular league appearances, which was achieved for the first time in V-League history on February 21st, is the result of his constant overcoming of his past self. It is all the more meaningful because it is the result of the process where the team has succeeded in rebuilding and is achieving good results. Hyundai Capital stayed in 6th and 7th place in the last two seasons, respectively, but is regaining its pride as a prestigious player by climbing to 2nd place in the regular league this season.

“It was very difficult while rebuilding from about three years ago. I’m also missing something… . At that time, ‘Ah, should I quit volleyball now? Is it difficult?’ There was such a sense of crisis. But I think I’ve stepped up a notch with the younger players this season. I think it will become a stronger team because the juniors have a lot of potential for development.”

He said he hated losing, but he said he hoped his juniors would surpass him. “I don’t think it matters how many more games I play. I hope there will be juniors who can surpass me. That way, the players below him will also set higher goals.” 안전놀이터

As the first candidate, he picked Park Kyung-min, a libero from the same team. Park Kyung-min, who is 21 years younger than himself, entered the pros in the 4th place in the first round of the 2020-2021 draft, and was selected as the best 7 libero in the league the following year. “(The successor) is Park Kyung-min. Other players are good at it, but Kyungmin has a lot of potential for improvement. He will develop into Korea’s representative libero in the future. Since he is a player who will surpass me, there can be no rivalry, and if Kyung-min does well, he can rest well and help me when I am in trouble (laughs).”

This season is the season when the ’45-year-old project’ is completed. It is a project by coach Choi Tae-woong that will make Yeo Oh-hyun play as a player until the age of 45. This was possible because of the player’s thorough self-management and the coach’s trust and support. Yeo Oh-hyun also revealed her feelings for Choi.

“You are such a great person. When he was a player, he was worse than me. I do night training alone, and I make 10,000 tosses while counting. Even if you say 10,000 words, even if you say 100, your shoulders will fall off. As a leader, always be more passionate than the players. Analyze videos all night, find good volleyball systems and players pros and cons and let them know. At the same time, I try to create an atmosphere where players can do things on their own without being coercive. Not only me, but other players will think that they will be happy to meet the coach.”

It has not been decided whether to extend the 45-year-old project or start a full-fledged leadership career after retirement. First of all, you have to finish ‘Spring Volleyball’ well. “(Winning) I’m stuck at number 9, but I have to try again this time. I will do my best to help the team finish the season with a smile.”

To the last question, ‘What was the best thing you heard during your career as a player?’, he answered like this. “I liked it best when I was told that I was just a steady player. A player who was consistently on the pitch and shouted on the court. I feel proud when the fans see me and say, ‘Oh, that player did well consistently and diligently’.”

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