South Korean snowboarder Lee Sang-ho experienced snowboarding for the first time in a Chinese cabbage field in a highland area in Jeongseon, Gangwon Province. The silver medal he won in the snowboard parallel giant slalom at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Saturday holds significant meaning. It is the first medal in 58 years that Korean ski has won since it participated in the Olympics at Squaw Valley in 1960.
South Korea’s four-man bobsleigh team also miraculously won the silver medal on Sunday, opening a new chapter. It was a great surprise presented by the four-man team that only ranked 50th in the world, and which no one had paid attention. What Won Yun-jong had to say in an interview soon after the race touches our heart. “We have had so many difficulties over the past 18 years. We have endeavored and overcome them to be what we are today,” Kim said. “We believe that we deserve a medal more than anyone else.” Their “surprise medals” are the firsts not only in South Korea but also in Asia.
The women’s curling team, which made sensation as “Garlic Girls,” also opened a new chapter in South Korea’s sports history. The Korean public wildly cheered on outstanding performance by the curling team that spawned the word in fashion “Young-mi Ya.” The team, which advanced to the semifinals as No. 1 in the qualifying round, defeated its archrival Japan in the semifinal to eventually win the silver. It was the first medal in South Korea’s curling history, and the first silver medal won by an Asia nation. Yun Sung-bin’s gold medal in skeleton and Kim Min-seok’s silver medal in men’s 1,500-meter speed skating race won earlier are also the firsts in Asia as well.
In the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that ended on Sunday, South Korea earned a total of 17 medals in six sports, the most ever, including one gold, four silvers and two bronzes in speed skating. We are all the more excited about the first medals they boldly challenged to win in sports that have been largely unpopular in the country. Our athletes completely overcame the disregard and regret that Asian nations suffered as backwater in Winter Olympics. “When we wanted to rise to the world’s top class only to fall off….. we talked to ourselves that we are being swayed like these only to bloom later,” national women's curling team skip Kim Eun-jeong said, recalling their past struggle. “We are so proud of these athletes who have overcome insurmountable barriers.” It would be wonderful if their invincible passion to challenge and spirit of sacrifice for teammates will send a message of hope, courage and unity to their fellow young generation. The Korean people have been truly happy thanks to Team Korea.