An Olympic debut in snowboard, bobsleigh

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An Olympic debut in snowboard, bobsleigh

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Kim Hyun-ki

Korea is making its debut in two sports at this year's Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Kim Ho-jun is the first Korean to represent Korea in the halfpipe snowboard event. The four-man bobsleigh team led by Kang Kwang-bae, the flag bearer at the opening ceremonies, will also make its first appearance at the Winter Games.

Kang is the pioneer of bobsleigh and skeleton sports in Korea. He first competed in the luge competition at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, then went on to compete in the skeleton event in the 2002 Salt Lake City and 2006 Turin Winter Games.

“We have already achieved our goal of reaching the Olympics. It would be great if we can reach the medal rounds, but we're just hoping our team performs well.

"We'll plan for the future of the sport in Korea after the Vancouver Winter Games,” said a Korea Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation official.

In addition, Korea will also have three alpine skiers (two men and one woman), two cross country skiers (one man and one woman), one female freestyle skier and three male ski jumpers compete in the Winter Games.



Athletes to watch

Mogul skier Seo Jung-hwa is ranked 28th in the world and at 20 years old, he has the best hope of developing into a medal contender in the future.

The University of Southern California student placed 12th in the single mogul and seventh in the dual mogul events at the Freestyle Ski World Cup in Calgary, Canada last month.

Kim, 19, who is set to compete in the halfpipe snowboard event, is another young prospect with a bright future. Kim won a silver medal at the Winter Universiade last February in Harbin, China, becoming the first Korean snowboarder to do so.

“Seo and Kim are young athletes but we think they can finish in the top 10 if they are at their peak condition and perform their best at the Winter Games,” said Jung Mak-gyu of the Korea Ski Association.

In addition, the ski jumping team, consisting of Choi Heung-chul, Choi Yong-jik and Kim Hyun-ki, will compete in individual competitions.

The ski jumping team received a lot of media attention and drew sponsorships for the first time after the 2008 release of “Take Off,” a film loosely based on its own story. The group of four ski jumpers had trained under less-than-desirable circumstances until last year, with all of its members working side jobs to compete in international competitions.

Kim has the best hope of finishing in the top 10 at the moment, having won first place in the K-125 event at the International Ski Federation's Ski Jumping Continental Cup 2009 in Pyeongchang last September.

Although they are not expected to finish in the medal rounds, rooting for these underdogs to make it to the final rounds should make for an entertaining experience.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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