There will be little time for rest for the weary South Korea medalists and other participating athletes from the recently concluded Beijing Winter Olympics, with an annual national winter sports competition starting Friday.
The 103rd edition of the National Winter Sports Festival will run from Friday to Monday at multiple locations across the country.
This year’s event will start only five days after the end of Beijing 2022, where South Korea grabbed two gold medals, five silver medals and two bronze medals.
All nine medals came from either short track speed skating or speed skating. Many of those medalists are expected to be in action at the Winter Sports Festival.
Short tracker Hwang Dae-heon, who won gold in the men’s 1,500m and silver in the 5,000m relay, has registered for action in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, 85 kilometers northeast of Seoul. His gold medal was the very first gold by South Korea in Beijing.
Two of his relay teammates, Park Jang-hyuk and Kim Dong-wook, also put their names on the entry list in Chuncheon.
Kwak Yoon-gy, the senior member of the relay squad who had his Olympic swan song in Beijing, will skip the national event.
On the women’s side, Lee Yu-bin and Seo Whi-min, who helped South Korea to silver in the 3,000m relay, are scheduled to take part in the national competition. Park Ji-yun, who was on the national team but didn’t get into any race in Beijing, has registered for the event too.
However, Choi Min-jeong, who captured one gold and two silvers in Beijing, has decided to forego the domestic event.
Two-time Olympic relay champion Shim Suk-hee, whose ban stemming from off-ice troubles ended Monday, will not be a part of the national event.
Shim was slapped with a two-month suspension on Dec. 21 last year, over expletive-laden text message exchanges with a coach, in which she derided and disparaged her teammates at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Shim lost her bid for a court injunction to stop the ban and missed the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Games, despite having won the Olympic trials last May.
Athletes hoping to take part in the National Winter Sports Festival had to register between Feb. 10 and 20. But Shim was not allowed to sign up for it while still serving her ban.
Seoul will hold the speed skating races, and Lee Seung-hoon, who became the most decorated Winter Olympian from South Korea last weekend, has signed up.
Lee claimed bronze in the men’s mass start last Saturday for his sixth career Olympic medal, moving into the sole possession of the lead in medal counts among Korean winter sports athletes.
Taking the silver medal just ahead of Lee was the 20-year-old wunderkind Chung Jae-won, who is also scheduled to compete in the national event.
Uijeongbu, about 20 kilometers north of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province, will be the site for figure skating events. It’s where Cha Jun-hwan clinched his Olympic ticket by winning the national Olympic trials in January. Then a month later, Cha made a small piece of South Korean Olympic history by finishing fifth in the men’s singles competition. It was the best Olympic performance by a Korean skater not named Kim Yu-na, the 2010 women’s singles gold medalist.
You Young and Kim Ye-lim, who ranked sixth and ninth in the women’s singles in Beijing, respectively, will also be skating at the national event. You and Kim are the first pair of South Korean figure skaters to place inside the top 10 at an Olympics.
South Korea didn’t have any medal from snow at Beijing 2022, though cross-country skier Lee Chae-won tied the record for a South Korean athlete with her sixth Olympic appearance. She has been a certified legend at the National Winter Sports Festival with 78 career gold medals. She will enter five events this year.
Lee has been competing at the national event since 1996.
Alpine snowboarder Lee Sang-ho will try to shake off his disappointment from the Olympics this week. The 2018 silver medalist in the men’s parallel giant slalom topped the qualification stage at Beijing 2022, only to lose his quarterfinal race to Victor Wild of the Russian Olympic Committee by 0.01 second. Lee ended in fifth place. (Yonhap)