By Jennifer Cho and Patrick Niceforo
South Korea finished second overall with 50 medals at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo and Obihiro, Japan. In 2018, South Korea will host the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and, according to Gracenote’s sports data, is predicted to place 8th overall with 10 medals. Below, find our list of athletes to watch for in Pyeongchang.
Lee Sang-hwa, the gold medalist from both 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, recently won a silver medal in 500m at the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo. She holds the current world record in women’s 500m with the time of 36.36 seconds. With the recovery of her right calf muscle, she is expected to be a three-time Olympic champion in 500m speed skating.
Lee Seung-hoon, a former short track speed skater, converted to long track in September 2009 and became the first Asian man to win a gold medal in men’s 10,000m and a silver medal in men’s 5,000m the at 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. At the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, he won four gold medals in men’s 5,000m, 10,000m, mass start, and team pursuits, overcoming his knee injury. He is expected to win medals in 5,000m and 1,000m in Pyeongchang 2018.
Short Track Speed Skating
Shim Suk-hee won a bronze medal in women’s 1,000m, a silver medal in 1,500m, and a gold medal in the 3,000m relay at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Recently, she claimed two gold medals in the 1,000m and in the 3,000m relay and a silver medal in the 1,500m in Sapporo. The 2017 Winter Asian Games reaffirmed her status as a future medalist in short track speed skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Lee Jung-su was a two time Olympic champion in the 1,000m and the 1,500m at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. At the 2017 Winter Asian Games in Sapporo, he won a silver medal in the 5,000m relay and a bronze medal in the 1,500m. As a captain of Korean short track speed skating team, his strategy in the 1,500m led Seo Yi-ra to win the gold medal in the race. He supported his teammates throughout the Winter Games. His leadership will strengthen the Korean short track team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Seventeen-year old Choi Da-bin took home the gold for women’s singles in Sapporo. She was originally ineligible to compete since she placed 5th at a national trial in October of last year. However, Choi became eligible to compete after fellow figure skaters Kim Na-hyun and Park So-youn dropped out. Choi, who has been dubbed “the next Kim Yuna,” competes next at the ISU World Skating Championship in Finland. If Choi places at least in the top 10, South Korea will be eligible for two spots in women’s singles in Pyeongchang.
At the end of 2016, Lee Sang-ho placed fourth in parallel giant slalom at the International Ski Federation Snowboard World Cup in Italy, a national record for South Korea. Buoyed by his success, Lee expressed optimism about taking home a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. He later claimed the first gold of the 2017 Asian Winter Games in men’s giant slalom and another gold in men’s slalom. If Lee maintains his momentum, South Korea could potentially claim its first Winter Olympics gold medal in a non-skating related event.
The men’s ice hockey team earned silver at Sapporo, their highest placement yet at the Asian Winter Games. The team includes forward Park Woo-sang, a three-time Asia League champion, and several naturalized citizens such as goaltender Matt Dalton. Dalton is Canadian-born and was formerly signed with the Boston Bruins. The team is coached by Jim Paek, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the first ever Korean-born NHL player. Coach Paek will lead South Korea in its first ever Olympic hockey qualification in Pyeongchang.
Jennifer Cho is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and an intern at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). Patrick Niceforo is a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and an intern at KEI. The views expressed here are the authors’ alone.
Image created by Sang Kim, Director of Public Affairs and Intern Coordinator at KEI.