South Korea’s athletes will be competing on home ice and snow during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. More than 80 athletes will represent the country on the world stage.
Here are the top names to know.
The first time that Lee Sang-Ho tried snowboarding, it was on a frozen cabbage patch that had been turned into a sledding slope. The "Napa Cabbage Boy," as he came to be known, went on to become an Alpine racer and now has a chance to win South Korea's first-ever Olympic medal in a snow sport.
Lee is coming off a breakthrough season on the World Cup circuit. The 22-year-old earned a silver medal at an event in Turkey, finished the season ranked No. 5 in parallel giant slalom, and placed fifth at the world championships. He's also just three years moved from winning a junior world title.
Only four Koreans have ever competed in snowboarding at a Winter Olympics before this year. Lee, who is making his Olympic debut, will be the first to have a legitimate shot at a medal.
In women’s hockey, North Korea and South Korea will play under a unified flag in PyeongChang. Twelve North Korean players were named to the unified roster, but only 22 women will dress per game. All other women’s hockey team rosters include 23 players.
It will be the first time the two nations have competed together as one team at an Olympic Games in a sport.
Some notable North American players recruited by the South Korean team include Marissa Brandt, the adopted sister of Team USA forward Hannah Brandt. Marissa appears on the Korea roster sheet under her birth name, Park Yoon-Jung, something she has said she was hesitant about at first, but has now embraced.
Also on the team is Caroline Park, a med student enrolled at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and formerly an Ivy League women’s hockey forward for the Princeton Tigers. As a teen, Park pursued acting and appeared in nine episodes of the Canadian teen soap, “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” according to IMDB.com.
The South Korean men’s team also has their share of North American talent, most notably, Canadian Matt Dalton, who will play goalie for the host nation.
South Korea will begin their Olympics playing in Group A, along with the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Canada. When South Korea played a NHL-less Canadian roster at last December’s Channel One Cup in Moscow, Dalton played well.
Bolstered by Dalton’s goaltending, South Korea was able to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Canada would eventually get the win, but Dalton made 53 saves on 56 shots.
Other hired guns for the South Korean men's team include Alex Plante, Bryan Young, Brock Radunske, Michael Swift and Mike Testwuide. Over three seasons (2009-2012), Plante appeared in 10 NHL games with Edmonton, while Young picked up 17 games in two seasons (2006-2008), also with the Oilers.
Coaching the Korean men’s team, is two-time Stanley Cup winner and the first player of Korean-descent to play in the NHL, Jim Paek.
North Korea did not send men’s hockey players to the Olympics in PyeongChang.
By far, South Korea’s most prominent figure skater is 2010 gold medalist Yuna Kim. But as Kim has stepped off the ice and transitioned into a new role within the Olympic movement, new skaters have come into the spotlight to fill her shoes… well, skates. The South Korean squad will not only compete in their individual disciplines but also in the team event, included at the Olympics for just the second time.
Choi Dabin won gold at the 2017 Asian Winter Games and finished 10th at the 2017 World Championships. That finish at Worlds earned two spots for South Korean ladies at the Olympics. Joining Choi is Ha-Nul Kim, who is in her first year as a senior skater.
On the men’s side, there’s only one spot at the PyeongChang Olympics; it belongs to 2017 and 2018 national champion Jun Hwan Cha. He trains in Toronto, Canada with heavy-hitters such as Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez, who each have two world titles.
Ice dancers Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin teamed up in 2015 and train together in Novi, Michigan. They were national champions in 2017 and 2018 and placed 20th in their world championships debut later in the season. Min was born in California to South Korean parents, and holds dual citizenship; Gamelin recently earned his South Korean citizenship.
Kim Kyu-Eun and Alex Kang-chan Kam are South Korea’s top pair team. They won this year’s national title but withdrew from the Four Continents Championships in January. Kam was born in New Zealand, calls Seoul his hometown, and the team trains in Montreal.
Yun Sung-bin became the first South Korean man to win a skeleton World Cup race in 2016. Since then, he has established himself as the Olympic favorite.
Sung-bin won five of the seven World Cup races he entered this season, and finished second in the other two. Two-time Olympic silver medalist Martins Dukurs of Latvia was the only slider to defeat Sung-bin this season. Dukurs also edged Sung-bin by .01 seconds in a March 2017 race on the 2018 Olympic course.
Sung-bin, who is nicknamed “Iron Man” and collects the figurines, is hoping to become the first South Korean athlete to win an Olympic medal in the sliding sports.
Won Yun-Jong has looked like an Olympic medal threat in two-man for much of this quadrennial, although he is coming off his worst season in limited action.
He won the first two-man World Cup season title for South Korea in 2015-16. The next season, he finished third. But this season, he did not finish higher than sixth and only entered three of eight World Cup races.
Yun-Jong is very familiar with the PyeongChang course. He finished fifth in a March 2017 two-man race on the 2018 Olympic track.
Seo Yi-Ra will be looking to make a mark in his Olympic debut. Seo was the 2017 Overall World Champion after earning gold in the 1000m and bronzes in the 1500m and 500m.
The 25-year old is tasked with continuing the 2018 host country’s Olympic tradition in short track as 21 of South Korea’s 28 winter gold medals have come in the event.
Seo is the his countries biggest hope in men’s speed skating after two-time Olympic gold medalist Lee Jung-Su – the top South Korean male skater this World Cup season – did not make the Olympic team. Joining Lee in the stands is 2013 World overall champion Sin Da-Woon.
The 2018 Games will serve as a homecoming for Shim Suk-Hee who grew up in Gangneung, the city that will host the Olympic short track competition.
The South Korean women’s curling team has steadily moved up the ranks to become one of Asia’s top rinks. They won gold at the 2016 Pacific-Asia Championships when they beat China 6-3 in the final match. The next year, Team Kim made their debut at the world championships and finished sixth.
Skip Kim Eun-Jung and her teammates, Kim Kyeong-Ae, Kim Seon-Yeong and Kim Yeong-Mi, call each other by English nicknames on the ice. The nicknames are all based on food: Eun-Jung is Annie, because that’s her favorite brand of yogurt, and her teammates are Steak, Pancake and Sunny (as in sunny-side-up eggs).
South Korea only has one female ski jumper: Park Guy-Lim. She could’ve competed in the Olympics under the host country quota rule, but wanted to earn the spot for herself. Park qualified outright for the PyeongChang Olympics when she scored a single point on the World Cup circuit, coincidentally, at the PyeongChang venue in February 2017. No South Korean men made it past the qualification stage at that test event, though three competed.
Park Je-Un is South Korea’s only Nordic combined athlete. He started off as a cross-country athlete, but then pursued ski jumping, before taking up Nordic combined in 2013. He used to train with the South Korean ski jumping and cross-country skiing teams separately. Buw now, he is coached by his father, who previously represented South Korea at the Olympics in cross-country skiing.
Kim Magnus was born to a Korean mother and Norwegian father five months after the cauldron was extinguished at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games – the last time they were held in Asia. Now 19, Kim has been preparing for his first Olympics by practicing on the snowy track which will be used for Olympic cross-country events.
Kim made his World Cup debut in 2016 and has shown steady improvement. In his final race before skiing in front of his home country at the Olympics, Kim posted one of his best sprint qualifying results, finishing 43rd, roughly two minutes shy of advancing to the quarterfinal heats.
In 2016 at the Youth Olympic Games, Kim took home two medals in Olympic disciplines – gold in the 10km individual and silver in the sprint.
Over the past two years a handful of Russian biathletes have been naturalized by South Korea. One of them, Timofei Lapshin, will make his Olympic biathlon debut in PyeongChang wearing the South Korean flag. Lapshin won two World Cup relay gold medals with his Russian teammates during the 2014-15 season. Lapshin is currently ranked ninth on the World Cup sprint score list and 30th overall.
One of the Russian-born athletes on Korea’s women’s team has Olympic experience. Anna Frolina finished fourth in the sprint and sixth in the pursuit at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. She holds a 36th place ranking on the overall World Cup list and is 22nd on the sprint list this season.
A third Russian, Ekaterina Avvakumova will also race for South Korea at the 2018 Olympics in her first trip to the Games. Avvakumova impressed when she finished fifth, roughly 18 seconds off the podium, at last years world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria in the women's 15km individual event.
The South Korean biathlon team is led by Russian head coach, Andrei Prokunin, which could explain the influx of Russian-born athletes.
Set to make her third Olympic appearance in biathlon for South Korea will be 30-year-old Mun Ji-Hee. Her best Olympic result came in 2010 when she finished 63rd in the sprint.