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“Kang Min-hyeok Beat Huh Seung-wook by Just 0.01 Second? Wait, the Gold Goes to Kim Hyung-chul”

“Kang Min-hyeok Beat Huh Seung-wook by Just 0.01 Second? Wait, the Gold Goes to Kim Hyung-chul”

Posted February. 24, 2005 22:51,   


February 24, the opening day of the 86th National Winter Sports Festival, at the site of the Super Giant Slalom Competition in Gangwon-do’s Yongpyeong Resort. Spectators uttered “Oh”s of amazement when Huh Seung-wook (33, Jisan Resort) crossed the finish line amid a flurry of snow. At 1:03:47, he had come in just 0.01 second later than his competition, Kang Min-hyeok (24, Yongpyeong Resort), who had descended the slope right before him. Kang’s time was 1:03:46.

Regret seemed to linger on Huh Seung-wook’s face, even while he laughed off the results by saying, “It’s only natural.” Huh is what one might call the Cho Yong-pil of the skiing world. Since he was picked as a national athlete in 1987, when he was just an eight-grader, until 2003, he had maintained his No. 1 position for 16 years. He has won no less than 42 gold medals in the National Sports Festival. But there was nothing he could do against the “rising sun” of Kang Min-hyeok.

However, that wasn’t the final say on the day’s competition. While they were speaking with the press, word came in that “first place had changed.” Kim Hyung-cheol (24, Kangwon Land) had just crossed the finish line at 1:03:27. Huh Seung-wook burst into laughter: “Third place! I’m in lousy third place?”

Kang and Kim are rivals vying for the top position in the national team. Park Jae-hyeok, the national alpine team’s coach, noted, “Min-hyeok excels in technique and stamina; Hyung-chul excels in speed.”

Kang is a promising contender who came in at 25th place in the 2005 World Ski Championship (held in Bormio, Italy) for the first time in the history of Korean skiing, as well as winning four events in the college division of last year’s Winter Sports Festival. Kim, who donned the national team insignia four years ago, also won three titles last year in the men’s division: the super giant slalom, slalom, and overall.

Kim was one year above Kang at Hoenggye Elementary School, Doam Middle School, and Dankook University. Throughout their history as rival competitors, Kang has beaten Kim just a few more times than vice versa, they said.

Kim declared that he would take four titles by winning all the remaining events, while Kang responded by saying, “I’ll settle for three, since four would be impossible now.”

The Winter Sports Festival that opened that day takes place over three days, with 3,362 contestants (the largest number ever) from 15 cities and regions excepting Jeju Island competing in a variety of events.

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com