Athletes dream of Olympic glory

December 31, 2013
The Korean female curling national team, from left, Um Min-ji, Shin Mi-sung, Kim Ji-sun, Lee Seul-bee and Gim Un-chi, pose at the Taeneung National Training Center, on April. 21, 2012. Korean athletes competing in less popular sports vow to let their presence be known at the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be held from Feb. 7 to 23. (Korea Times file photo)

The Korean female curling national team, from left, Um Min-ji, Shin Mi-sung, Kim Ji-sun, Lee Seul-bee and Gim Un-chi, pose at the Taeneung National Training Center, on April. 21, 2012. Korean athletes competing in less popular sports vow to let their presence be known at the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be held from Feb. 7 to 23. (Korea Times file photo)

By Jung Min-ho

Sochi-2014

Figure-skating megastar Kim Yu-na and speed-skating champion Lee Sang-hwa are expected to dictate the media attention on Korean athletes at next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Korean athletes competing in less popular sports, however, are vowing to let their presence be known on the world stage.

Korea’s bobsledders are talking about medaling at the Olympics after winning the America’s Cup in March, which represented the first international title ever won by a Korean team.

The team of Won Yun-jong and Jung Jung-lin snatched the gold in the two-men race there.

The achievement represented a dramatic improvement for a country that was unable to send a bobsledding team to the Olympics before 2010 Vancouver Games, where the team of Kang Kwang-Bae, Lee Jin-hee, Kim Jung-su and Kim Dong-hyun had finished 19th.

Male pilots must rank within the top-50 of the world rankings as of Jan. 20 to compete at the Sochi Games. In the two-man world rankings, Won currently stands at 17th and Kim Dong-hyun at 23rd. In the four-man rankings, Won is 28th and Kim at 40th.

In each of the two categories, 30 teams will compete. The top three nations based on the accumulation of athletes’ points can send three teams to the Olympics and the next six nations can send two teams each. Korea is currently ranked ninth, meaning it is possible for the country to send two teams if it can maintain its position through Jan. 20.

A strong performance at the North America Cup in Lake Placid, New York, which starts on Jan. 6, will be critical in punching those tickets to Sochi.

The men’s skeleton is another event upon which Team Korea is pinning its hopes.

On Dec. 9, Yoon Sung-bin won a silver medal in skeleton at the Confederations Cup in Austria. It is also the country’s first medal in any major international skeleton competition.

Male athletes must rank within the top 60 to qualify the Sochi berth. Yoon is sitting at 22nd in world rankings, while Lee Han-sin is at 41st.

The skeleton team will fly to Whistler, Canada, for the Inter Continental Cup this month to boost its rankings. Korea is ranked 10th in total points. Since a country must rank ninth or better for two spots in the Olympics, Lee’s participation in the Sochi Games remains in doubts.

Korea has participated in the past three Winter Olympics, but has not yet won a skeleton medal.

Korean women’s curling team, which already earned a ticket to Sochi, is another hope. It won the nation’s first silver medal at the 26th Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy, on Dec. 21.

The Sochi Olympics is expected to have the most Korean athletes ever, with 33 tickets already earned. If Korea can win more than 16 spots in the sled events, it will break the record of 48 athletes set in the 2002 Salt Lake Games.

With more participation expected, Korea’s best Winter Olympic performance winning six gold, six silver and two bronze medals, may soon be bested.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>