Australian-Korean skater sets sights on Winter Olympics

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September 13, 2017 05:40:28

When Andy Jung moved from Seoul to Melbourne in 2009, his impressions were of a place with “a lot of trees rather than buildings” and “a lot of white people”.

His parents had relocated the then-12-year-old and his sister because they wanted to offer their children a more relaxed lifestyle.

“In Korea, it’s always stressful,” Jung said.

“There’s always pressure … if you’re a kid you have to go to school, and after going to school you have to go to an educational academy which finishes at 10:00pm, and then you have to go home and do your homework for your school.”

The irony is not lost on Jung and his family that he has now returned to South Korea, leaving his parents behind in Melbourne.

They tease him about the fact they emigrated to Australia for his sake, and now he has returned to Korea.

The now-20-year-old moved to Seoul last December with one goal in mind: selection for the Australian team in short-track speed skating for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.

Demanding schedule for young skater

Twice a day, Jung takes to the ice in Seoul to train, along with a group of international skaters.

In between those sessions, there is dry-track and weights training.

“The training environment is better here than Australia,” Jung said.

“There’s so much more people who can compete well and who are just more experienced.”

Jung’s coach Jae-Su Chun said he was “pretty confident” he would qualify for the Games.

“Actually at this point, his top speed and his acceleration, his speed endurance for 500m and also for the 1000m, he’s pretty top-level in the world,” Mr Chun said.

What Jung lacks though is competition experience.

“He’s a really nice boy,” Mr Chun said.

“But at competition time you need [to be] more wild, more dynamic and sometimes [you] need [to be] more aggressive.”

‘Quite confident’ for Pyeongchang

Jung said he too thought he had a good chance of a place at Pyeongchang.

“I can skate as fast as the top skaters who medal, so I’m quite confident. I think I can make it,” he said.

Like all Olympic hopefuls, Jung dreams of winning a medal.

“I see myself at the podium,” he said.

“I always think about that when I’m having a hard time or when I’m skating really good.”

Skating hero does everything ‘like art’

Australia has only ever won one individual short-track Olympic medal.

That was back in 2002, when Steven Bradbury went down in history at the Salt Lake City Games for his victory in the 1000m after all the other competitors went down.

Jung said what people forget was that Bradbury was at the top of his game to even make the final.

Jung’s real hero is Viktor Ahn, the Korean-born short-track speed skater who now competes for Russia.

“He’s just so talented and he trains hard I guess, and then everything he does is just like art,” Jung said.

Games to put South Korea back on the map

Pyeongchang, a city of around 43,000 people located 130 kilometres from Seoul, won the right to host the 2018 Games after losing out in 2010 and 2014.

Organisers are hoping the event will put South Korea back on the map for something other than political tensions with the North.

“Our relationship with North Korea hasn’t been very good lately,” said Yong-chul Kim, a spokesman for Gangwon Province where Pyeongchang is located.

“So we hope the Games can help improve the relationship and bring peace to the Korean peninsula.

“South Korea is a developed country and we are known to be a technologically advanced country, so we also hope to be able to showcase this to the world.”

Mr Kim is hoping South Korea will come fourth in the medals table. He rated Australia’s chances a little lower.

“For Australia, I think maybe … 10th?” Mr Kim said.

That would be significantly higher than Australia’s ranking of 24th in the 2014 Games in Sochi, where Australia won three medals.

Jung is hoping he can help boost the tally this time around.

How does he feel about the possibility of taking home a medal for Australia?

“Proud,” he said. “Just pure proud”.

Topics:

winter-olympics,

speed-skating,

human-interest,

australia,

korea-republic-of



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