Korea embraces diversity for strong Olympic team

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Korea embraces diversity for strong Olympic team

Matt Dalton
By Baek Byung-yeul

Ever since Kim Ki-hoon claimed South Korea's first-ever Winter Olympics gold medal in short track speed skating at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, South Korea has had a Winter Olympics pedigree only in speed skating.

Though the country had Kim Yuna who won a gold and a silver medal at Olympic figure skating, that was definitely an outlier situation in the country's Winter Games history.

For the forthcoming PyeongChang Olympics, the host South Korea has set its goal to win at least eight gold medals and 20 medals overall.

In a bid to pack its national team with more talented athletes, the host country has increasingly issued citizenship to foreign athletes.

As a result, 19 naturalized athletes will represent South Korea during the PyeongChang Olympics. That accounts for about 13 percent among a total of 144 athletes of the South Korean delegation.

The naturalized athletes will compete in five sports including ice hockey, biathlon, cross-country skiing, luge and figure skating ice dancing.

Among the sports, both the men's and women's ice hockey teams field the most naturalized athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics.

Led by South Korea-born Canadian coach Jim Paek, the men's ice hockey team built its squad with seven naturalized players including Canada-born goalie Matt Dalton.

With the foreign talents, the men's ice hockey team saw its ranking rise to 21st. The team also claimed its first-ever silver medal at the Sapporo Asian Winter Games last year and got promoted to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship for the first time last year.

The women's ice hockey team features four ethnic Koreans including Randi Heesoo Griffin, Danelle Im, Caroline Park and Grace Lee.

Marissa Brandt, who was born in Korea but adopted into an American family as an infant, will represent Korea under her Korean name Park Yoon-jung. Her younger sister Hannah also made the U.S. national team.

Led by Canadian coach Sara Murray, the South Korean team won the IIHF World Championship Division II Group A.

As North and South Korea agreed to form a joint women's ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Games it remains to be seen whether the joint team can create a synergy.

The joint team integrated well on Sunday night despite losing to world No. 5 Sweden 3-1 in an exhibition match.
The biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, features three naturalized athletes at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Anna Frolina, who ranked fourth in the women's sprint event and sixth in the women's pursuit event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is a strong medal contender for the host country at PyeongChang. She has kept her form as well as she ranked sixth in the women's 7.5km sprint at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Open European Championships in Ridnnaun-Val Ridanna, Italy, last month.

She is joined by Russia-born Ekaterina Avvakumova, who won the gold medal in the mixed relay event at the 2015 Summer Biathlon World Championships.

Timofey Lapshin is the only male athlete representing Korea in the event. The Russia-born athlete, who currently sits at No. 30 in the IBU rankings, is the silver medalist in the men's relay event at the 2009 Biathlon Junior World Cup. He also won a biathlon world cup gold medal twice in 2014 and 2015.

Though he had knee surgery after acquiring his South Korean passport last February, Lapshin is recovering well as he finished eighth in the men's sprint race at the IBU World Cup in Annecy, France, last month.

In ice dance figure skating, Min Yu-ra who holds dual citizenship of both the U.S. and South Korea is paring with Alexander Gamelin in PyeongChang.

The Boston native earned South Korean citizenship after his partner Min decided to represent South Korea in PyeongChang.

The duo recently finished seventh at the 2018 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taiwan with a combined 151.38 points. The duo will become the host country's first ice dancers to compete on the Olympic stage in 16 years.

In luge, German-born racer Aileen Frisch will represent South Korea. Frisch won gold medals at the junior world and junior European championships but retired from luge racing after she failed to be included in the senior German squad for the 2015-16 season.

Promising cross-country skier Kim Magnus will also represent South Korea in PyeongChang. Born to a Norwegian father and a Korean mother, Kim won a gold, a silver and a bronze at last year's Sapporo Asian Winter
Games.


Matt Dalton
By Baek Byung-yeul

Ever since Kim Ki-hoon claimed South Korea's first-ever Winter Olympics gold medal in short track speed skating at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, South Korea has had a Winter Olympics pedigree only in speed skating.

Though the country had Kim Yuna who won a gold and a silver medal at Olympic figure skating, that was definitely an outlier situation in the country's Winter Games history.

For the forthcoming PyeongChang Olympics, the host South Korea has set its goal to win at least eight gold medals and 20 medals overall.

In a bid to pack its national team with more talented athletes, the host country has increasingly issued citizenship to foreign athletes.

As a result, 19 naturalized athletes will represent South Korea during the PyeongChang Olympics. That accounts for about 13 percent among a total of 144 athletes of the South Korean delegation.

The naturalized athletes will compete in five sports including ice hockey, biathlon, cross-country skiing, luge and figure skating ice dancing.

Among the sports, both the men's and women's ice hockey teams field the most naturalized athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics.

Led by South Korea-born Canadian coach Jim Paek, the men's ice hockey team built its squad with seven naturalized players including Canada-born goalie Matt Dalton.

With the foreign talents, the men's ice hockey team saw its ranking rise to 21st. The team also claimed its first-ever silver medal at the Sapporo Asian Winter Games last year and got promoted to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship for the first time last year.

The women's ice hockey team features four ethnic Koreans including Randi Heesoo Griffin, Danelle Im, Caroline Park and Grace Lee.

Marissa Brandt, who was born in Korea but adopted into an American family as an infant, will represent Korea under her Korean name Park Yoon-jung. Her younger sister Hannah also made the U.S. national team.

Led by Canadian coach Sara Murray, the South Korean team won the IIHF World Championship Division II Group A.

As North and South Korea agreed to form a joint women's ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Games it remains to be seen whether the joint team can create a synergy.

The joint team integrated well on Sunday night despite losing to world No. 5 Sweden 3-1 in an exhibition match.
The biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, features three naturalized athletes at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Anna Frolina, who ranked fourth in the women's sprint event and sixth in the women's pursuit event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is a strong medal contender for the host country at PyeongChang. She has kept her form as well as she ranked sixth in the women's 7.5km sprint at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Open European Championships in Ridnnaun-Val Ridanna, Italy, last month.

She is joined by Russia-born Ekaterina Avvakumova, who won the gold medal in the mixed relay event at the 2015 Summer Biathlon World Championships.

Timofey Lapshin is the only male athlete representing Korea in the event. The Russia-born athlete, who currently sits at No. 30 in the IBU rankings, is the silver medalist in the men's relay event at the 2009 Biathlon Junior World Cup. He also won a biathlon world cup gold medal twice in 2014 and 2015.

Though he had knee surgery after acquiring his South Korean passport last February, Lapshin is recovering well as he finished eighth in the men's sprint race at the IBU World Cup in Annecy, France, last month.

In ice dance figure skating, Min Yu-ra who holds dual citizenship of both the U.S. and South Korea is paring with Alexander Gamelin in PyeongChang.

The Boston native earned South Korean citizenship after his partner Min decided to represent South Korea in PyeongChang.

The duo recently finished seventh at the 2018 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taiwan with a combined 151.38 points. The duo will become the host country's first ice dancers to compete on the Olympic stage in 16 years.

In luge, German-born racer Aileen Frisch will represent South Korea. Frisch won gold medals at the junior world and junior European championships but retired from luge racing after she failed to be included in the senior German squad for the 2015-16 season.

Promising cross-country skier Kim Magnus will also represent South Korea in PyeongChang. Born to a Norwegian father and a Korean mother, Kim won a gold, a silver and a bronze at last year's Sapporo Asian Winter
Games.


Baek Byung-yeul baekby@koreatimes.co.kr


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