SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- Not since the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics -- when the country first participated in alpine events at the games -- has South Korea been this close to winning a medal in skiing.
Choi Jae-woo, 23, is the country's freestyle mogul skiing genius, and he is preparing to pull off that feat at next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics in his home country of South Korea.
Though quite young, Choi is considered one of the nation's pioneers when it comes to mogul skiing, a type of freestyle skiing in which athletes ski down a steep course that is studded with moguls. Competitors are graded for technical turns, aerial maneuvers and speed.
After getting on skis for the first time at age four, Choi won his first national alpine skiing contest at age seven. He began earnestly seeking a life in competitive skiing at age 10, and moved to Canada in 2006 to better train and study skiing.
A file photo of South Korean mogul skier Choi Jae-woo (Yonhap)
At age 15, Choi made the national team in 2009. He was reportedly offered Canadian citizenship repeatedly after winning several international competitions, but chose to represent his home country.
The signing of Toby Dawson, American bronze medalist at the Torino Olympics in 2006, with the South Korean national team was an eye opener for Choi. Under Dawson's tutelage, Choi went onto win bronze at the 2012 World Junior Alpine Skiing Championships and rank fifth at the world championships the following year.
Choi set a new milestone in 2014, becoming the first South Korean to make the Olympic finals at the Sochi Winter Games. The skier, however, faced a setback four years ago after swerving off course in the second round at the finals. He finished 10th.
After Sochi, Choi managed to make the top tier in subsequent global competitions, including finishing fourth at the 2015 FIS Freestyle World Cup. But he later faced a slump following a back injury sustained while training.
Choi, however, got back to his game, snatching a silver medal at last year's Asian Winter Games in Sapporo. He finished fourth twice at the International Ski FIS World Cup in China, in December.
"I feel great for finishing fourth at the World Cup. My morale also went up high, giving a great boost in training," Choi said last month while training in PyeongChang.
He added, "There are many excellent, world-class players. I think good results will follow if I just focus on what I do." Choi again finished fourth at the World Cup competitions in Quebec on Saturday (local time).
"I am regarding the Olympics the same as any other competition, and that mindset helps me with my mental preparation," Choi said during a media day event at the National Training Center in Seoul in October of last year.
South Korean mogul skier Choi Jae-woo poses for the camera in this file photo, provided by the Korea Ski Association. (Yonhap)