Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ask a Korean! News: Korea's Bobsled Team

The Korean could not care less about the fuss about Korea's short track speed skating team. Arbitrary rules and falling down are part of the game people, let it go.

Instead, let us focus on the heartwarming story of Korea's bobsled team:

"Show Them We Can Do It"; The Miracle of the Four Bobsled Warriors

They held their hands. The heated energy channeled to every one. They could not even hear each other because of the crowd's passionate cheering. But perhaps because they focused solely on the game, only the quiet tension flowed among them. The eldest one spoke in low voice: "We prepared until we had no regret. Let's show them we can do it." His teammate silently nodded, exchanging determined glares.

Kang Gwang-Bae, driver. (37 years old, Team Gangwon-do Province.) He was an alpine skier during college, but he bet his career on a road less traveled after a critical ACL rupture -- He switched to luge, a sled. At the time in Korea, there was no other luge player, no equipment, no support. His only weapon was his unwavering perseverance. Solely with this pioneering spirit, he stood tall in his entry into 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He entered as a skeleton player for Salt Lake City in 2002 and Torino in 2006. This time in Vancouver Winter Olympics, he led the national team as the steady rock of an elder in four-man bobsled, the premier event of sledding. He is the first in the world to enter into Olympics in all three sledding events.

Kim Dong-Hyeon, brakeman. (23, Yonsei University.) Bobsled seems simple, but it is a very sensitive game. Experience is crucial because the tiniest mistake drastically changes the rank. In a game that is said to require a decade to have any sense, the youngest Kim's experience is merely one year. Two years ago, he could barely carry a conversation because of congenital hearing disability. After recovering his hearing after surgery, he began bobsledding a year ago. He has now become the future of Korea's bobsledding. He has good physique -- 185 cm, 87 kg -- while being diligent and modest. He is expected to share the load that Kang used to carry alone.

Kim Jeong-Su, (29, Team Gangwon Province) and Lee Jin-Hee (26, Gangneung University), pushers. They were a weightlifter and a javelin thrower respectively by training, but gained a second life through bobsled. Kim said, "Weightlifting was so stressful I was losing hair. Bobsled is hard too, but it feels like I am regrowing hair." Lee said, "When I stand on the start line in Bobsled, all my nerves are shot because of tension. But after some time, I end up missing the thrill."

These four warriors played in the final race in the four-man bobsled, held on the 28th in Canada Whistler Sliding Center. The Whistler course is notorious as the "course of death" because of numerous accidents during practice, but the team engaged in an aggressive racing. Kang spoke with emotion: "Sledding down, all the memories of hardship flashed before my eyes. Thinking of my mother and wife, I cried without even knowing."

The result was 52.92 seconds. The cumulative time, adding all four heats, was 3 minutes 31.13 seconds -- good for 19th place. Team Korea, ranked 36th in the world, achieved a small miracle by ranking within top 20 in its first entry in the Olympics. Team Korea was also Asia's best, overtaking Team Japan (21st place) which had over 60 more years of history. Japan has more than 30 bobsled teams; Korea does not even have a bobsled track.

After the race, they hugged one another without a word. Something flowed from their eyes while quietly celebrating the achievement of their goals. Kang said, "I don't know why. Just looking at my teammates, the tears fell." But the joy is only temporary, as they were already looking ahead to four years later at Sochi. Kim Dong-Hyeon, gently stroking the sled like a jockey would a racehorse, said: "If we were only thinking about getting happy here, we would not even have started. Now we start again."

"할 수 있다는것 보여주자" 봅슬레이 4인 전사의 기적 (Dong-A Ilbo)

*                          *                           *

Bromance!! Accept it, men -- y'all choked up a little.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

5 comments:

  1. Do you know where they practice, since Korea doesn't have a bobsled track?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought I heard about them from somewhere before and I did.
    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2008/01/14/korean-cool-running/

    I wonder if they had their own sled this time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's funny you should bring this up because as I was watching the bobsled event I wondered if Korea had one. I do recall that some Korean show did a bobsledding feature, but I think they went to Japan.

    After a bit of googling, it appears that the sled leader, Kang, was the flag bearer.

    http://www.universalsports.com/news/article/newsid=382805.html

    According to Universal Sports, Korea is ranked 15th, not 36th, though the source could be outdated.

    The article also says that they trained on rented sleds in Europe. Here's a picture of the sled they used in Vancouver (don't know who owns it):

    http://76.13.116.113/olympics/vancouver/KOR/Jinhee+Lee/1017359/gallery/im:urn:newsml:sports.yahoo,reuters:20050301:oly,photo,r2292997075:1;_ylt=A2KIRyv6SotLETMAJg.tIbh_

    I think it should have a cooler font.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This story went through my mind as I was reading the post:
    (kind of a cool running part 2)

    http://www.boston.com/sports/other_sports/olympics/articles/2009/12/23/jamaican_skier_has_olympic_dream/

    ReplyDelete

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