Korea nabs a bobsled berth for Vancouver

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Korea nabs a bobsled berth for Vancouver

Korea has secured its first two-man bobsled spot for next month’s Vancouver Olympics, after qualifying for a four-man event last month.

“I received confirmation from the secretary-general of the Federation International Bobsleigh and Tobogganing (FIBT) that Korea had qualified to compete in the two-man bobsled category at the Winter Olympics,” Kang Kwang-bae, pilot of the Korean bobsled team, told Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

Romania, Austria and Italy each had two teams set to compete in the two-man bobsled competition at the Vancouver Games but will instead each feature one team apiece. The teams which were dropped failed to rank in the top 50. As Romania, Austria and Italy each lost a team, 17th- to 19th-ranked teams, including Japan and Korea, became last-minute additions for the Olympics.

“Since our two-man team finished 19th overall, we had given up hopes of our two-man bobsled team qualifying for the Olympics, but we were lucky,” said Kang. “We weren’t satisfied with only our four-man team qualifying and it’s a relief to have our two-man team qualify as well.”

With the four-man bobsled team qualifying for the Vancouver Games last month, Kang, who is also the head coach of the national team, will compete in both the four- and two-man competitions in Vancouver.

Kang made his Olympics debut in Nagano in 1998, competing in the luge competition. Having competed in the luge and skeleton competitions in the past, Kang is set to compete in his fourth consecutive Olympics.

Since bobsledding is not a popular sport in Korea, Kang and his men have had to compete without adequate funding. The national team has had to borrow bobsleds from host organizations at past events and Kang had to recruit two overseas substitute players to temporarily fill in two empty spots on the four-man team.

“With our team competing in both four-man and two-man competitions, we have secured more practice time,” said Kang. “It is the first time that both Korea and Japan have both qualified for the bobsled event at the Olympics. To be honest, we’re happy to have qualified for the Olympics. It will be tough to expect a medal but we will work hard to place better than our rivals Japan.”

The national team returns to Korea tomorrow after completing its 2009-10 FIBT Europe Cup schedule. After a brief break from training, Kang and his men will depart for Salt Lake City, Utah, on Jan. 26 to prepare for the Vancouver Olympics.

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