Entering the Olympic season in a few days, South Korean short track speed skaters said Monday they'll focus more on the process than the end results.
The national team skaters will compete at the 2017-2018 International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating season starting Sept. 28 in Budapest, Hungary. Three more World Cups will take place in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, Shanghai and Seoul through mid-November, collectively serving as a prelude to the PyeongChang Winter Games next February.
A typical World Cup season makes six stops and lasts into February, but in Olympic seasons it wraps up in November. The skaters' rankings based on their results across the four events will determine their countries' Olympic quotas.
At a national team press conference at the National Training Center in Seoul, two aces on the women's team, Shim Suk-hee and Choi Min-jeong, both spoke of the importance of preparing for the Olympics during the World Cup season.
"It's important to have a good process to get the result that we want," said Shim, who won three medals at Sochi 2014 and swept up eight titles in the last World Cup season. "So I'll try to make sure I can accomplish what I've been working on."
Choi, who also won eight World Cup gold medals last season, echoed the sentiment, saying, "My focus will be on the process during the World Cup season. I am looking forward to my first Olympic season."
South Korean short track speed skater Shim Suk-hee skates at the head of the pack during an open practice session at the National Training Center in Seoul on Sept. 18, 2017. (Yonhap)
The national team held a three-week camp in Calgary last month to build up for the World Cup season. Head coach Kim Sun-tae said his athletes improved their overall speed during that period.
"Since returning home, the skaters have been trying to maintain their form while attempting to address some of the issues that emerged in Calgary," Kim said.
Shim said she accomplished more during the camp than she'd expected, adding that she'd put on an additional 3 kilograms compared to her competing weight in Sochi in order to add strength.
On the men's team, Seo Yi-ra, the reigning world overall champion, said he feels the weight of responsibility for representing the host nation in PyeongChang.
"As athletes, we all want to win a gold medal," Seo said. "Personally, I'd love to win a relay title."
South Korea has won 21 Olympic gold medals in short track so far and leads all other countries. Kim, the head coach, said Shim and Choi make the women's team a force. Kim noted the competition will be wide open for men and said he's counting on his male skaters to race with more confidence.
The team also unveiled its new uniform Monday. All the skaters raved about their new outfits, which found their way to Seoul after much controversy.
A Dutch sports apparel company called Hunter will be providing uniforms for the first time this season, replacing local supplier FILA Korea.
But FILA, whose contract with the Korea Skating Union expired in April, accused the national federation of breaching the spirit of fair play and transparency, and argued its products were lighter and guaranteed better performances.
FILA even filed a court injunction in May to stop the KSU from picking Hunter as the new uniform supplier, but a Seoul court rejected the application on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Kim said the new uniforms fit more snugly to the skaters' bodies than previous ones and that they represent a significant step forward from the older outfits. (Yonhap)