86-year-old skier says slopes keep him aliveIs it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a budding grand slalom olympic contender wending his way down the slopes? Nope ― it’s just Park Chi-hyeon.
On the slopes of a local ski resort, the white-haired Mr. Park flits down the course with ease. For the 86-year-old man, age means little. When he was 61, an age when others wouldn’t even attempt to learn something physically challenging, Mr. Park started skiing. Since then, he has gone skiing as soon as the resorts open and has spent more than 30 days a year practicing. He usually takes four-day trips and skis two hours each morning and afternoon. During this past season, he spent 31 days at different ski resorts.
“Some skiers in Japan are over 100 years old,” Mr. Park said. “Aren’t I too young to give up skiing yet?”
After he started skiing, he decided that every five years, he would decide whether to ski for another five years. Early this year, he decided to keep doing his hobby for another five years.
When asked what’s so good about skiing, Mr. Park said, “Ski resorts covered with white snow are always another world to me. Gliding down the ski runs, breathing fresh air, I feel an unexplainably pleasant sense of accomplishment.”
Mr. Park said that those over 60 years old are not too old to enjoy skiing. “If you’re afraid of skiing, I can tell you this story: If you lift a calf everyday since its birth, you can lift it even when it has fully grown up to become a bull.” So you can enjoy even high-level-difficulty courses if you have regularly practiced skiing, he explained.
However, he did warn that skiing is a speed sport that always carries the risk of injury. “Don’t do extreme skiing or ski beyond your ability,” he continued, “Instead, enjoy skiing on a slope that fits your level.” Mr. Park dropped the difficulty level of the slopes he uses to mid-range three years ago ― and he doesn’t ski at night.
“The probability of an accident drops enormously if a person learns how to fall properly and how to steer away from a beginning skier,” Mr. Park said.
When the skiing season ends, the golf season begins for Mr. Park. Although he started playing golf 47 years ago to help foster better business relations, he didn’t play that much up until 1994, when his wife died.
Following her death, he fled to the golf course to find catharsis ― trying to free himself from the loneliness that he said he felt every morning when he woke up. Now, he says that along with skiing, the golf keeps him healthy and far from being lonely. Mr. Park has a 17-handicap in golf.
He has a regular check up once a year and his blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels are always normal. Mr. Park is 168 centimeters (5.5 feet) tall and weighs 67 kilograms (147.7 pounds), with no flab. He doesn’t suffer from the neuralgia and arthritis that sometimes afflicts skiers or golfers. He takes medicine, but only for a mildly-enlarged prostate.
His wife died from the complications of diabetes. “We played golf together for a while, but my wife stopped doing so, saying it was too expensive,” Mr. Park recalled. “That was before she got diabetes. If I had forced her to keep on playing golf regularly, we could have probably still been living together now.”
by Park Tae-kyun
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