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Korean-Born American Wins Ski Bronze

Posted February. 17, 2006 03:11,   


Toby Dawson’s face after the Olympic freestyle skiing preliminaries was as grim as the sky over the Northern Alps yesterday. The 28-year-old Korean-born American freestyle skier competing in men’s mogul events at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, had just taken sixth place in the preliminary score rankings with 24.20 points, which was not enough to win him any medals.

But two hours and a perfect performance in the finals later, Dawson crossed the finish line with both arms raised in joy. He had scored high enough to win the bronze. Only then did his face break out into a smile.

Dawson began a new life on March 31, 1982. Dawson, a three-year-old orphan and scared out of his wits, arrived at Denver Airport in Colorado to meet his new foster parents.

His mother Deborah Dawson recounted their first meeting. “I fell in love with him immediately. It was like a dream come true,” Mike and Deborah were both ski instructors. So it was natural for Toby to take up skiing. Soon after his arrival, his parents took him to a ski resort, and Toby Dawson lived on the snow for the following 24 years.

“I made a mistake in the preliminary because I was too nervous trying not to disappoint my family and friends. But my nerves settled in the final, so I was able to show my stuff,” said Dawson. He executed a blade-grab two turns in his first jump, and an off-axis double turn in the second. He finished off his performance with a perfect landing.

The Korean media began following Dawson when his search for his birth parents began to make news. “I’ve received a few calls from people who claimed to be my birth parents, but they all decline to be DNA tested. I will take my time looking for them,” said Dawson.

Being born Korean was a source of embarrassment for the shy Dawson growing up. His foster parents kept Toby’s birth-name, Soo-chul, as his middle initials: SC. Dawson used to tell people they stood for “So Cool” when asked what his initials meant. But as he grew older, his attitude changed, and he volunteered as a counselor at a camp for Korean-born adoptees.

We might see him with a bigger smile when he finally gets to meet his birth parents.

Sung-Kyu Kim kimsk@donga.com