‘Cool grandfather’ skates through disease to buff thighs

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‘Cool grandfather’ skates through disease to buff thighs

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If you look at Yoo Young-joon from behind, gliding down the streets on his inline skates, you could be forgiven for thinking he’s just another 20-year-old doing his thing. But get up close and you find that Mr. Yoo is actually 74 years old, although it’s not that easy to distinguish him from other skaters in their helmets and hoods. Mr. Yoo is 176 centimeters (5.8 feet) tall, weighs 61 kilograms (134.5 pounds) and has a strong upright posture, which makes him look much younger.
Seeing him these days makes you wonder if he has ever been ill ― but 16 years ago, Mr. Yoo was diagnosed as a diabetic, and 10 years ago he survived a heart attack.
In order to improve his health, Mr. Yoo started swimming and golfing, but became attracted to inline skating four years ago when he read an article about a skaters’ community.
“People around me were dead set against the idea. They said, it was a ‘dangerous’ activity for the old, and asked if I would be able to get along with the community members who are mostly youngsters,” he said. But Mr. Yoo didn’t care about such worries and through the Internet joined the community, called ILIS or “I love inline skating,” whose members skate in the World Cup Park.
“The younger members in the community, who are my grandchildren’s age if not younger, are very polite. When I appear at the park, they greet me first and share some beverages with me,” Mr. Yoo said. “I felt myself getting younger around them.”
Mr. Yoo was not worried about falling ― he knew break-fall techniques from judo in which he is a third-dan black belt.
However, it did take him around six months to be fully comfortable with inline skating, coached by his young friends.
“Inline skating is an activity that any older person can enjoy as long as they wear safety gear and don’t do it excessively,” said Mr. Yoo. “When you’re skating, you feel refreshed, you move your body much, and it makes your leg muscles tight. Thanks to that, my thighs are as hard as quartz,” he added.
Asked why he changed from golf to inline skating, he said, “Golf costs a lot and it’s not a sport you can do whenever you want. But if you buy a pair of inline skates, you can use them everyday for free. I go inline skating almost everyday for at least one-and-a-half hours.”
On weekends, he travels about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) along the banks of the Han River. “If it rains? I go to indoor arenas.”
When he first started inline skating, he bought a pair with a brake, specially designed for beginners. But after two years, he bought his current “expert” set with no brakes, although he still takes the occasional spill.
“When racing, I occasionally fall on purpose in order to avoid children riding bicycles. But usually, if you don’t become competitive, there’s nearly no reason to fall.”
Mr. Yoo said he has successfully fought back against diabetes and his heart attack. “For years, my blood sugar level on an empty stomach has been 80 mg/dl. I get a check up every three months, and the doctor says I don’t have any problems.”
His two grandchildren think Mr. Yoo, who still works as a tax accountant, is a “cool grandfather,” especially when he takes them inline skating in the park.


by Park Tae-kyun
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