[FOUNTAIN]An eye on the ice ahead

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[FOUNTAIN]An eye on the ice ahead

It was at the end of the 19th century when Western ice-skating first appeared in Korea. In 1894, King Gojong called a Canadian missionary couple by the name of Evison into Gyeongbok palace and asked them to demonstrate the art of skating on a frozen pond on the castle grounds. The king was quite amused as Mr. Evison fell several times. The first Korean to skate was Hyun Dong-soon, then the director of the YMCA, who tried it in 1908. He bought skates from an American missionary who was leaving Korea and tried his luck at a stream in Samcheong-dong.

Short track has a much shorter history than speed skating. The first official games were held in 1909 but it was limited to North America only. In 1967 it received an official stamp of approval as an ice sport from the International Skating Union, and became an official Olympic sport at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Korea made its first venture into this sport at the World Championships in Japan in 1983. Although a latecomer, in four Olympics Korea has won 11 gold medals, proving that our skaters are world class.

Yesterday the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics came to an end. Unlike the case in Korea, which is still suffering from the aftereffects of Kim Dong-sung's disqualification, the United States is in a party mood. Despite criticism of too much commercialization and about judging controversies, the United States managed to bring home three times the number of medals they won four years ago.

According to the Monday edition of the Washington Post, after the disastrous 1988 Calgary winter games, the United States formed an ad hoc committee to examine winter sports, headed by the controversial owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner. In a report in 1989, the committee said that the United States should invest heavily to improve its winter sports teams.

In preparing for the Salt Lake City games, the United States invested $44 million in its national team, double its spending before the Nagano games. Perhaps it was home field advantage; perhaps poor judging played a role, but most of the medals came from heavy investment.

Now that the flame of the Winter Olympic games died, we should stop looking at videotapes that are things of the past. What we should do is to streamline our anger to a single effort and invest it into our next short track team - for the simple reason that sports goes on. Perhaps the words of Baron de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, are best: "The important thing in these Olympiads is not to win, but to take part."

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Son Byoung-soo

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