Categorized | slider, South Korea

South Korean Athletes to Watch at the PyeongChang Olympics

By Yeonsu Kim and Minhee Lee

Despite the fact that South Korea is not necessarily well known for winter sports, the country won the right to host the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics after several attempts in 2010 and 2014. South Korea has high expectations for PyeongChang, with the team hoping to obtain eight gold medals, four silver medals, and eight bronze medals from a star packed team that includes Park Je-un, Choi Da-bin, and Yun Sung-bin. Check out our list below of the South Korean athletes to watch for each sport in PyeongChang and when you can watch them go for the gold.

  • Alpine Skiing

Men’s Downhill (Sun, 11 Feb)
Men’s Alpine Combined Downhill (Tue, 13 Feb)

Jeong Dong-hyun, who won the gold medal at the 2011 Winter Asian Games and ranked 27th last January in Switzerland, is expected to break the top 20 in PyeongChang. This would be a significant accomplishment, as South Korea has never ranked in the top 20 in Alpine Skiing at the Olympics. Jeong has previously been a national team member three times – at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the 2011 Winter Asian Games, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

  • Bobsleigh

2-man Heat (Sun, 18 Feb)

The team of Won Yoon-jong and Seo Yeong-woo were ranked first in the world during 2015-2016 season. Even though they moved down to 46th last year, they are still strong candidates for a medal in PyeongChang. The bobsleigh skeleton team as a whole is hoping to grab the first Olympic medal in South Korea’s sleigh history, aiming for two gold medals and one bronze medal.

  • Cross-Country Skiing

Men’s 15km + 15km Skiathlon (Sun, 11 Feb)
Ladies’ 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon (Sat, 10 Feb)

Kim Magnus is a rising star and is considered a medal candidate in these games. He made his debut on the adult stage last year, improving from a top 90 ranking to 40th place this year. In addition, Lee Chae-won, who was born in PyeongChang, and the oldest player on the Korean team is considered a ‘legend’ in cross-country skiing, has won 45 gold medals in local winter games that was the highest number of gold medals in South Korea’s national record. She is hoping to place in the top 20 in PyeongChang.

  • Curling

Mixed Doubles Round Robin (Thu, 8 Feb)/ Women’s Round Robin (Thu, 15 Feb)

The Korean women’s curling team consists of six members under the guidance of coach Kim Min-jung and led by athlete Kim Eun-jung, who is in charge of skipping. The Korean national team won the silver medal in the Asian Games in Sapporo last year, the gold medal in the Asia-Pacific curling championships, and the gold medal in the Finland Master Tour tournament.

Kim Chang- min, the leader of men’s curling team, nabbed the Asia- Pacific championship gold medal and the team were runners-up in the Boost National Grand Slam last year. With these impressive track records, both the women’s curling team and men’s curling team are expected to have good performances in PyeongChang.

  • Figure Skating

Pair Skating Short Program— Short Skating (Wed, 14 Feb)
Free Skating (Thur, 15 Feb)

Choi Da-bin is the 2017 Asian Winter Games champion and a five-time South Korean national medalist (three silver, two bronze). She placed in the top ten at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, 2017 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, and twice (2014, 2015) at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. She is expected to perform well in PyeongChang and follow in the footsteps of Korean figure skating legend Kim Yuna.

  • Freestyle Skiing

Men’s Moguls Qualification 1 (Fri, 09 Feb)

The first time Choi Jae-woo won a Korean national alpine skiing contest, he was seven years old. At age 10, he began earnestly seeking a life in competitive skiing. In 2009, he made the national team and won bronze at the 2012 World Junior Alpine Skiing. He became the first South Korean to make the Olympic finals at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 and is expected to compete for a top spot in PyeongChang.

  • Ice Hockey

Korea vs. Switzerland (Sat, 10 Feb)

Park Yoon-jung, one of the Korean players on the Korean women’s ice hockey team, was adopted by American parents. In 2016, Park reclaimed her Korean citizenship, and in this upcoming Olympics she will be playing for Korea while her sister will be a national team member for the United States. With her Korean citizenship and Korean uniform, Park won all in five competitions in the 2017 Ice Hockey World Championships. Even though there is only a slim possibility that the U.S. and Korea will face each other in PyeongChang, these siblings competing for the two countries will surely be a big story during this Olympics season.

  • Luge

Women’s Singles Run 1 (Mon, 12 Feb)

Aileen Frisch will represent South Korea at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Frisch won gold medals at the Junior World and Junior European Championships, but retired from luge racing after she failed to be included on the senior German squad for the 2015/16 season. Then she was approached by the Korea Luge Federation (KLF) to race for Korea. Germany is a luge powerhouse, winning every gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, but with Frisch on the team South Korea may have a chance to compete for a medal in PyeongChang.

  • Nordic Combined

Individual Gundersen NH/10km, Ski Jumping Trial Round (Wed 14, Feb)

Park Jae-un, who is the only Korean player to compete in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Nordic Complex, will open a new chapter in the history Korean Nordic skiing. In 2006, he won three national championships, and he was the national representative for ski jumping. He obtained 30th place in the Nordic Combined World Cup held in PyeongChang last February. He is aiming at the achievement of mid-level or higher using the home court advantage of competing in South Korea.

  • Short Track Speed Skating

Ladies’ 500m Heat 1  (Sat, 10 Feb)
Men’s 1,500m Heat 1 (Sat, 10 Feb)

Choi Min-jung was awarded her first senior individual gold medal ahead of Arianna Fontana from Italy when she crossed the finish line of the women’s 1500m final for the second ISU Short Track World Cup of the 2014-2015 season held in Montreal, Canada. At age 16, she became the 2015 Overall Ladies World Champion. In 2017, she won a gold medal in the Winter Asian Games for the 1,500m and 3,000m, and a silver medal for the 1,000m. She is expected to earn gold medals in 500m and 1,000m in PyeongChang based on her performance at the last four World Cups.

On the men’s side, Lim Hyo-jun became a member of the South Korean national team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics through the 2017/18 selection match. He has great skills in overtaking other skaters, especially on the inner course and outer course. Lim Hyo-jun is expected to earn a medal in the 1,500m.

Hwang Dae Heon is another South Korean short track speed skater to watch. In the 2016/17 season, he was named Rookie of the Year by the Korea Skating Union. He was a silver medalist at the 2015/16 World Junior Championships. At World Cup events, Hwang has been on the podium 17 times. He is five-time gold, nine-time silver and three-time bronze medalist at the Speed Skating World Cup in the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and 5000m relay.

  • Skeleton

Men Heat 1 (Thur, 15 Feb)

Yoon Seong-bin participated 2014 Winter Olympics as a Korean national team member. He got the first gold medal of the 2015-2016 season at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Championships. After that, Yoon was ranked first in the world at the 2017-2018 season IBSF World Championships. Even though he started skeleton late in life compare to other players, he is a strong candidate for medals in this Olympics.

  • Ski Jumping

Ladies’ Normal Hill Individual Trial Round for Competition (Mon, 12 Feb)

Park Kyu-rim was ranked third in the International Ski Federation’s FIS Cup held in Whistler, Canada last December, marking her the first time on the podium. At the PyeongChang Olympics, she is not classified as a medal contender. However, her participation is still historic for South Korea, because Park is the first female Korean national ski jumper to compete in the Olympics, and the only one competing this year.

  • Snowboard

Men’s Slopestyle Qualification Heat 1 Run 1 (Sat, 10 Feb)

Lee Sang-ho was ranked 20th out of 53 participants in the Snowboarding World Championship in 2013. In 2014, he won a silver medal in the International Ski Federation FIS Cup, and in 2015 he obtained a bronze and a gold medal as well. He was the first South Korean gold medalist at the Snowboarding World Cup. He is currently ranked ninth in the FIS World Cup ranking. After he got a gold medal in 2017 in Japan, Lee’s success propelled alpine snowboard’s popularity in South Korea. With his skills, Lee is viewed as one of the possible gold medalists at this Olympics.

  • Speed Skating

Men’s 5,000m (Sun, 11 Feb)

In 2010, Lee Seung-hoon established new Korean record at the Asian Championships in the 10,000m with a time of 13:21:04. That year, Lee also won a silver medal and a gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where he broke his Olympic record in the 10,000m with a 12:58:55 time. As the king of long distance speed skating, Lee will participate in PyeongChang in the 5,000m, 10,000m, Outpace Team and Mass Strat, and looks to earn medals in each game.

In addition, Mo Tae-beom became the first Korean gold medalist in his sport and recorded 01:09:82 at the 2010 Olympics. At the 2014 Olympics, he was ranked fourth in the Men’s Speed Skating 500m. Even though he didn’t continue his streak after the Vancouver Olympics, he is still expected to become a medalist in PyeongChang.

Yeonsu Kim  is currently an Intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America as part of the Asan Academy Fellowship Program. She is also a student of Sogang University in South Korea. Minhee Lee has a Master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations in The George Washington University and is currently an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.

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