Korea shows hint of future potential at Beijing Paralympics
Team Korea rounded off the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics with the men's alpine skiing events on Sunday, ending 10 days of superhuman athletes defying overwhelming odds, personal tragedy and unbelievable obstacles.
More than 600 of the world's best Paralympic athletes from 51 countries competed in 78 events across six sports at the Beijing Paralympics, with Team Korea sending an 82-member delegation, including 32 athletes who competed in all 78 events.
Despite leaving Beijing without any medals, Korea's Paralympians still put up a good fight and leave the games with some promising signs for the future.
The Korean ice hockey team came closest to medaling in Beijing, making it to the bronze medal game but losing to China on Saturday. Team Korea, who had clinched the bronze medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, went into the match looking to secure that medal for the second straight Games but it was China that ended up winning 4-0.
Despite missing out on a medal, the Korean ice hockey team leaves the Games proud, having reached the semifinals on the big stage for the second time in a row after beating Italy 4-0 on Wednesday.
That win against Italy was as much thanks to impressive goal keeping from Choi Hyuk-jun and Lee Jae-woong as it was the offensive performance of Jang and the other forwards. Italy had nearly as many shots as Korea, with 15 to Korea's 17, but Choi and Lee Jae-woong were able to save every single one.
Korea alpine skiers also head home after a promising run on the Beijing snow, with Han Sang-min and Hwang Min-gyu finishing their respective men's super combined events in seventh place on Monday, the best two individual results for Team Korea at the Beijing Paralympic Games. Han competed in the sitting competition and Hwang in the visually impaired event. Han and Hwang both failed to finish their final race on Sunday at the men’s slalom events.
Cross country skier Shin Eui-hyun, Korean Paralympic royalty and the country's only gold medalist ever, had his best result at the Winter Games in the men's cross-country long distance sitting 18-kilometer race and men's biathlon individual sitting 12.5-kilometer biathlon race, finishing eighth both times.
However, numbers don't fully illustrate how impressive Shin's achievement in Beijing is, as he completed three cross-country races and three biathlon races, all with fairly competitive times, at 41-years-old.
As well as Korea's only gold medal ever, Shin is also the only Korean ever to receive two medals at one Paralympics, winning bronze in the men's 15-kilometer sitting cross-country skiing and gold in the men's 7.5-kilometer sitting cross-country skiing in Pyeongchang.
One other sport that Korea narrowly missed out on a chance in is wheelchair curling, as the team failed to reach the semifinals despite taking a big 10-4 win against Sweden on Thursday. With only four teams advancing, Korea finished in sixth place with five wins and five losses.
The Korean wheelchair curling team is currently ranked at No. 5 in the world. At the PyeongChang Games the team narrowly missed out on a medal, losing 5-3 to Canada in the bronze medal match.
Despite missing out on a medal at the Beijing Paralympics, beating bronze medalists Canada 9-4 during the round robin shows the team's potential.
The Korean Paralympics team flew to Beijing looking for two bronze medals, but that wasn't to be. But that Korea was able to compete in so many events is still remarkable considering the country's relative lack of experience at the Games. Korea has only ever won a total of one gold, two silver and two bronze medals since first competing at the 1992 France Para Games.
The Paralympic baton will be passed to Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo on Sunday evening, where the 2026 Winter Paralympics will take place.
BY YUN SO-HYANG [email@example.com]