The eyes of the athletes gathered at the indoor ice rink in Jincheon Athletes’ Village in Chungbuk on the 5th, full of the energy of the new year of Im In-Yeon in 2022, are very serious. Even in the chill of the ice, the sweat dripping down their faces gave them a sense of how focused they were on their training.
It’s unexpected. This is because, until the end of last year, there were many concerns surrounding them. The 2021-2022 World Cup Series, which returned after a long hiatus due to the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), did not perform as expected. It was natural for me to return after not being on the international stage for over a year. In addition, it was expected that the players would not be able to concentrate on their training as there were even embarrassing incidents surrounding some of the representative players. However, they were also the best players in the world who overcame all kinds of difficulties and won. As if he had completely forgotten about the outside world, he focused on his training at this moment.
In fact, as if conscious of the numerous difficulties, the national team set the most conservative goal of all time, 15th overall, by winning one or two gold medals ahead of this tournament. At the press conference held ahead of the national team training ceremony that day, Korea Sports President Lee Ki-heung reaffirmed his goal once again, saying, “It would be nice to win more medals, but this is reasonable.” But the players were different. Bo-reum Kim, the women’s long-distance speed skating ace, said, “Every athlete has their own goals, and this is the same for me.” Everyone is just doing their best to achieve their goals.”
Rather, he is determined to use the negative outlook for the Olympics as an opportunity to empty his mind. Kim Seon-young, a member of the curling team ‘Team Kim’, said, “Just because the national team set goals with one or two doesn’t mean that we can’t win medals. Rather, I think you should focus on what you have to do without feeling pressured.” Short track national team ace Choi Min-jeong said, “At the athletic meet, they seemed to have announced the minimum goal after seeing the difficult preparations. It’s good to not be burdened, and I think the joy will be doubled if we achieve results that exceed expectations.”
In particular, in the short track track, which was the biggest concern, the athletes came forward and emphasized, “There is no need to worry.” Kwak Yoon-gi, the eldest member of the national team, said, “Actually, I was very worried when various controversies arose. But these days, young players are very professional players with a clear background. Coach Lee Young-seok of the women’s national team also showed confidence, saying, “Contrary to concerns around us, our players are setting higher goals.”
The aftermath of the international competition gap is also being overcome by playing on the international stage in the 2021-2022 season. Kim Min-seok, an expected mid-distance speed skating player, said, “I feel like I have regained some of my skills after participating in the four World Cups. There are still difficulties because I have to quarantine after the international competition, but this is something I have to overcome as a player, so I will work hard for the rest of the time.”
Ultimately, what players dream of is to do their best towards their own goals and finish the tournament without regrets. All players expressed their resolve to do so. Kim Bo-reum said, “There are many variables in the Olympic stage. That’s why my top goal is to show as much as I prepared and worked hard,” and Kwak Yoon-gi said, “I think this will be my last Olympics. I will show you a game that is not shy so that juniors can dream of the Olympic stage more.”
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