Mogul skiers to start Games tonight

February 5, 2014
Seo Jung-hwa Mogul skier

Seo Jung-hwa
Mogul skier

By Jung Min-ho

Mogul skiers Seo Jung-hwa and Seo Ji-won will begin Korea’s Olympic quest in Sochi before the Games’ official opening on Friday (PST).

At Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, a mountainous region just outside Sochi, the two will compete in the women’s qualifying round at 10 p.m. PST Wednesday.

Then, Team Korea, with a record 71 athletes, will challenge its humble goal of winning at least four gold medals and add to the build-up for the 2018 PyeongChang Games.

This is Seo Jung-hwa’s second Olympic competition, having been to the Vancouver Games where she failed to finish in the top-20 and advance to the final rounds. Seo Ji-won will be making her Olympic debut in the upcoming event.

The top 20 athletes will compete to become six “super finalists,” who will vie for the gold on Saturday. Competitors will perform three times a day, which will require stamina and concentration.

Under the guidance of Toby Dawson, the Korean-American athlete who won a bronze medal in the men’s mogul ski at the 2006 Olympics, Jung-hwa and Ji-won aim to become the first Korean athletes ever to reach the finals.

Mogul skiing is one of five Olympic freestyle skiing disciplines. It involves athletes racing on a downhill course over a series of bumps, known as moguls. Skiers are required to perform two jumps during the event, for which they get points; the combination of the quality and difficulty of the jumps, along with speed, determines the winner.

Tae Satoya of Japan is the only Olympic medalist from Asia. She won a gold medal at the 1998 Nagano Games and a bronze medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Americans Hannah Kearney, the Vancouver Olympic gold medalist, and Heather McPhie are the current top female mogul skiers. The two have been competing with each other in many international contests for the past year.

Korea’s male mogul skier Choi Jae-woo seems closer to medal contention than his female compatriots.

Choi snatched the bronze at the 2012 International Ski Federation Junior World Ski Championships in Italy and won the Australian Continental Cup later that year. He finished fifth in the World Ski Championships in Norway in June 2013, after which he was voted rookie of the year.

Choi will compete in the qualifying and final rounds on Monday at 11 p.m. (KST).