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Invincible Spirit on Ice

Posted February. 24, 2004 23:08,   


“Ooh Ya”

The war of nerve has become intense as players from both teams began to line up before the game. They wanted to demoralize each other.

After face-off, an inch-by-inch, pitched battle started. Players began to ply the ice. The puck frequently flied toward each other’s nets. Some players were kicked out of the game for their severe body checks.

The thrills and intensiveness of this game are not drastically different from ice hockey. The only difference is players are on sledges.

In the ice sledge hockey game of the first Handicapped Winter Sports Competition on February 24, players were riding sledge instead of skates. Ice sledge hockey is a variation of ice hockey for the handicapped.

Players use two sticks in both hands to shoot the puck and move their sledges around. One stick is tipped with a pick for sledge maneuvering and the other with a blade to hit the puck.

The game consists of three 20-minute periods, five minute shorter than an ice hockey period. Minor penalty time is 90 seconds, 30 seconds shorter than regular games. Apart from them, all rules are the same.

In the game, the Yonsei team, supported by Yonsei University Severance Hospital, and Sahmyook, supported by Sahmyook Rehabilitation Center, squared off. Although the game was introduced to Korea in 1998, there are just two teams in the country. They practices for three hours on weekends in a rink in Seongnam Sports Complex. Apart from the small amount of subsidies, they spent their own money for training. Their managers and coaches are volunteers.

Yi Yong-min, 30 years old, of Sahmyook, gained the most attention. The center forward is the game breaker who stirred the rink with the fastest speed and best ability.

Yi is handicapped with both legs amputated. He was crushed under a heavy vehicle 10 years ago while waiting for military service.

After the accident, he remained depressed for eight years. He learned the sport at the rehab center in August 2002 and became completely attracted to it.

“When I play hockey, I don’t have to worry a thing. It is so cool,” said Yi.

With just 18 months of experience in the sport, he is reportedly the sport’s best player. His dream is to out-perform Ento, the Japanese player who is among the world’s best five.

Yi, who blew away the bias against the handicapped playing the ice hockey, said, “I want to practice harder to become among the world’s best. I want more people to watch us with more interest.”

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com