S. Korea's 4-man bobsled team to make Olympic debut in Vancouver |
By Kim Boram
SEOUL, Dec. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's bobledders might even admit they looked about as likely to make it to the Vancouver Winter Olympics as the team from the movie "Cool Runnings."
There are just four of them, and they have only two sleds for international competitions. When they train, they have to fly all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah -- there's no sledding course anywhere in South Korea.
And when competing in Europe, they hurtle down the icy chutes on borrowed sleds because they don't have the money to ship their own back and forth.
But just like the sledders from Jamaica whose real life story were depicted in "Cool Runnings", they've defied the odds and captured a ticket to the Games, for the first time in their country's history.
On Sunday at the America's Cup, one of the preliminaries for the next year's Winter Olympics, Kang Kwang-bae piloted his teammates -- compatriot Kim Dong-hyun, and Andrii Tkachuk and Alexandr Streltsov of the Ukraine -- to a fifth-place finish with a time of 55.92.
That gave the squad a score of 379 points for the first seven out of nine America's Cup competitions, putting them at 15th in the world ranking and securing their spot at the Olympics. After the series is completed, the top 17 teams will go on to the Games.
"I'm really happy that a South Korean sled team can compete at the Winter Olympics for the first time. It's an honor," Kang told Yonhap News Agency in a telephone interview after he and his teammates finished the competition. "I'm so proud of my teammates who have worked hard and done their best."
His team won the bronze medal at last year's America Cup with a borrowed bobsled. It was the country's first ever medal in the sport at an international event.
This will be the fourth Olympic berth for the 36-year-old veteran sledder. In the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Kang was the first South Korean to compete in the luge. He also raced at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.
Kang said that he will recruit two South Korea bobsledder to replace his two Ukrainian teammates, as only South Korean nationals can represent the country in the Olympics.
"I heard that a training site for bobsledding is now under construction in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, which is trying to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. That will be a great help to us," Kang said.
He and Kim, who ranks 19th in the world tally, also have their eye on an Olympic ticket in the two-man bobsled event.
The pair will compete at the European Cup in Turin, Italy, next month, hoping to raise their standing to 17th and advance to the Olympic stage, slated to begin on Feb. 12 for 17 days.