SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- The men's short track speed skating team of South Korea failed to win any medals at the 2014 Winter Games, and the 18-year-old skater phenom Hwang Dae-heon is widely seen as someone who can help the crew rebuild its reputation at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next month.
"I want to compete as an earnest athlete for a long period," Hwang said as he braces for his first Winter Olympics.
It is not a surprise that Hwang emerged to become a new star in South Korean short track. For an assignment during his first year at elementary school, the phenom said his dream was to join the national team and that he should "practice hard" to achieve the goal.
Shown in this photo provided by short track speed skater Hwang Dae-heon's family on Jan. 22, 2018, is one of his first grade assignments at elementary school. Hwang wrote about his dream of skating for South Korea and said he needs to "practice hard" to achieve that goal. (Yonhap)
After proving his capabilities and potential at junior competitions, the young skater fulfilled his dream 10 years later, when Hwang was picked as a member of the national team ahead of the 2016-2017 season International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating.
Hwang took an unusual route to the national team.
In 2016, the police accused five short track speed skaters of regularly betting on sports games on illegal websites, with three of them among the top eight who had been picked for the national team. They were dropped from the squad and Hwang was selected as a replacement.
The young skater, however, did not take the opportunity as granted, and proved himself as a well-qualified skater in following international events.
In the 2017-2018 season, Hwang grabbed three gold medals through four World Cups, successfully rising as a key prospect, rather than being just a replacement.
In the men's 1,500 meters, Hwang collected two gold and two silver to solidify his presence in the distance.
Hwang, who will compete in the men's 1,500m on Feb. 10, one day after PyeongChang's opening ceremony, could win the first medal for the host country.
The young skater will also race in the 500m and 1,000m, along with the 5,000m relay.
The phenom said his role model is Viktor An, a South Korean-born Russian skater, who grabbed three gold in the 2006 Winter Games. An later competed in the 2014 Winter Games and captured three more gold as a Russian athlete after suffering a fallout from factional feuds within South Korea's national skating federation.
Hwang Dae-heon of South Korea performs at the International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul in this file photo taken Nov. 19, 2017. (Yonhap)