Korean Extreme Sports Enthusiasts Hold Their First National Competition

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Korean Extreme Sports Enthusiasts Hold Their First National Competition

"Why do I enjoy these extremely dangerous sports? They are very thrilling and the danger makes them more fun than ordinary games!" said Kim Min-soo, a 18-year-old high school student who took part in the 2001 Extreme Games Korea Open in Seoul. The competition was held from Jan. 30 to 31, 2001. Over 120,000 Koreans share his taste for these dangerous but thrilling games.

Extreme sports include inline skating, skate boarding and bicycle stunts. Participants fly up into the sky, performing seemingly impossible feats on the 85 degree slope and somersault in the air. It is essential that several safety procedures are in place wherever these spine-tingling and dangerous sports are played and help must be readily at hand in case of accidents, which can result in serious injuries.

Despite the risks involved, extreme sports are among the most rapidly growing sports; some 80 million people are said to enjoy them worldwide, with the highest concentration in the United States. They have become so popular that recently some were suggested for inclusion in the Olympic games.

The history of extreme sports in Korea, on the other hand, is not very long. It wasn't until the early 1990s that Koreans started showing interests in them and in 2001 the Korea Extreme Games Association was organized. It gathered together local amateurs and is attempting to develop interest in the sports here. The 2001 Extreme Games Korea Open was held to celebrate the birth of this organization.

About 120 players took part in the competition in four divisions. These were aggressive inline skating, skate boarding, bicycle stunt street and bicycle stunt vert. Most of the competitors were amateurs with a range of day jobs. The Olympic Gymnastic Stadium was filled with people, including many newcomers interested in this daring, thrilling and exciting sports. Cho Sung-sam, who heads a skate boarders club called Tomato, said, "When I'm deeply engaged in skate boarding, I'm completely into it, feeling all the thrills and suspense."

However, there was more enthusiasm than professionalism on show. Ichihashi Syuichi, a professional Japanese inline skater, who was invited as an observer to the games, said, "I have to say that Korean players fall short of the world standard. However, considering that this competition is held for the first time here, Korea shows great potential."

Chang Young-sun, the chief of the public relations department of Korea Extreme Games Association, replied, "It's true that Korean players don't meet world standards yet, but it's just that our players lack experience. From now on, we are going to improve the overall ability by regular training programs and by holding many competitions." Monthly competitions are scheduled between April and September, and Extreme Games Korea Open is to be an annual event. This spring is going to be the best time to enjoy the thrills that extreme sports have to offer.

by Choi Jae-young

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