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Let’s go on and finish the race

Posted February. 20, 2018 07:40,   

Updated February. 20, 2018 07:40

한국어

“For athletes, Olympic is the reason why the hands of my clock spin,” said Shim Suk-hee, a 21-year-old South Korean female speed skating star. The athletes who went through grueling physical and mental trainings for the Olympic games are threading the ice and flying over the slopes of Pyeongchang to write a new chapter of Olympic history where dramatic turns of events are inspiring both thrill and frustration. Between the cheers of the victorious and the sighs of the defeated, maxims are born. Here are some quotations from players competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will be remembered for a long time along with their remarkable performance.

Lim Hyo-jun, a 21-year-old South Korean male short-track speed skater, underwent surgery for seven times, and he needed something special for his first Olympic competition. Lim posted his motto on his Instagram, reading “ne doubt ye nought”, which translates into “never doubt yourself” in English. He suffered fracture in the shinbones, wrists and even his back, but he trained tooth and nail to overcome self-doubt, and on Feb. 10, a day after the opening ceremony, Lim set a new Olympic record in the men’s 1,500-meter event.

Choi Min-jung, a 19-year-old female short-track skater, was disqualified in women’s 500-meter game event last Tuesday after finishing the race the second. Choi, who is dubbed the “ice princess,” cried like a baby after the race was over but decided not to cry for the rest of the games. “Let’s go on and finish it,” she vowed to herself. Choi stood on the top of the podium Saturday after showing off overwhelming performance in the women’s 1,500-meter event.

Yun Sung-bin, the 23-year-old South Korean skeleton racer who claimed the throne held by the Latvian skeleton emperor Martin Dukurs for eight years, left a message that was aimed at future Olympic games after the PyeongChang Olympics: “I want to be the start of Korean skeleton, not the end.”

In fact, Pyeongchang saw many emperors and empresses handing over their crown to rookie players. In the men’s halfpipe, Shaun White, the 31-year-old American snowboarder, won his third Olympic gold medal after outperforming his much younger rival, Ayumu Hirano of Japan, who pulled off notoriously difficult tricks. The American snowboard prodigy, who won his first sponsorship at the age of seven, suffered a nasty fall in October last year and had to get 62 face stitches. His family tried to stop him as they believed he “did not have to prove himself anymore, and had made enough money.” But Shaun was adamant. “Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the scar, and the scar made me stronger,” said the American snowboarder. The very trick that left a scar on his face last year allowed him to redeem himself from the disgrace of no medals in Sochi and to join the ranks of legends in Pyeongchang.

“I am grateful for my injured ankle,” said Yuzuru Hanyu, the 23-year-old Japanese figure skater, who won the gold after outperforming Nathan Chen, the 18-year-old American who landed six quadruple jumps. Hanyu suffered ligament injury in his right ankle while making a landing in November last year, and for the PyeongChang Olympics, the Japanese focused on perfecting his acting performance to achieve a miracle of winning the men’s single twice in a row, a first in 66 years of Olympic history.

Medals are not the only goal that Olympians pursue. Park Seung-hui, a female short-track skater who won a total five medals in short track including the two gold medals in Sochi, changed her game for the PyeongChang Olympics. Park, who was at the pinnacle of short track, chose to start from the bottom of speed skating for her last Olympic games. She left a message for the much frustrated younger generation in South Korea for rooting for her bold challenge: “20s in South Korea. On Fire!”

For Claudia Pechstein, a German speed skater who will celebrate her 46th birthday on Thursday, the PyeongChang Olympics is her seventh Olympic. The German has won a total of nine medals including five golds so far. Among the 17 players who competed with her in the women’s 5000m in PyeongChang, nine were not even born when she had won a bronze at the Albertville Winter Olympic in 1992. She is used to people asking when she will retire, and that inquiry was also made in Pyeongchang. “I’ve beaten much younger players. None of the players at my age is faster than I am. No one knows what will happen in the future. There might be another chance for me to win a medal. Am I going to Beijing in 2022? Why not?” said the German speed skater.


Si-Uk Nam @donga.com