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(LEAD) Main S. Korean Olympic delegation returns from London

All Headlines 19:39 August 14, 2012

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with return of delegation; CHANGES dateline to Incheon)

INCHEON, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's main athletic delegation for the London Olympics received a hero's welcome Tuesday when they returned after finishing with one of the best results in the nation's Olympic history.

A team of 65 athletes and sports officials arrived at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on two flights at about 3 p.m. to a huge welcoming crowd, including their fans, families and friends.

South Korea sent a total of 245 athletes in 22 sports to the Olympic Games held on July 17-Aug. 12.

It finished in fifth place with 13 gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals, tying its record for the most titles at a single Olympics, and easily meeting its stated goal of finishing in the top-10 with at least 10 golds.

Athletes in shooting, fencing and other sports who finished their events early in London returned home earlier this month.

"Whether they won a medal or not, all of these athletes who participated in the Olympics are victors," Lee Kee-heung, the chief delegate, said during a ceremony to disband the delegation at the airport. "Our athletes will continue to give hope and dreams (to the people) during the next Summer Olympics in Brazil," he said.

The delegation also had a news conference there before heading for a welcoming ceremony in Seoul.

Several gold medalists -- wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo, archers Ki Bo-bae and Oh Jin-hyek and shooter Jin Jong-oh -- took part in the conference although they were among the athletes who arrived back home earlier.

But Son Yeon-jae, who came in fifth place in the individual all-around in rhythmic gymnastics, got the most media attention during the conference.

The 18-year-old Son was the first South Korean to reach the Olympic final in the sport and the youngest gymnast among the 10 finalists.

"Although I made a mistake in clubs, I have no regret for my performance because what I aimed for was just advancing to the final," she told reporters. "Since I'm still young, I will practice more for the next four years and secure a better result during the next Olympics," she added.

Wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo said he still cannot believe he won a gold at the Olympics.

"I feel like I'm still dreaming," Kim said, his right eye still bruised from the final round.

He also thanked the South Korean people for cheering him on to win a medal.

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