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[PyeongChang 2018] Short tracker trying to put near-traumatic injury behind for Olympics

Like other tough-as-nails athletes, South Korean short track speed skater Kim A-lang wears her battle scar proudly.

And that scar isn't in a place you'd expect to see on a speed skater, such as the knees, ankles or back.

It is actually on her left cheek, just below the eye. She sustained a severe cut in that area in a potentially traumatic incident during the National Winter Sports Festival in January this year when her face was slashed by the blade of another skater during a race.

Kim A-lang of South Korea (L) competes in the women`s 1,000m heats at the International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)
Kim A-lang of South Korea (L) competes in the women`s 1,000m heats at the International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)

Fortunately, Kim didn't suffer an eye injury but still needed an operation to stop the bleeding.

This week, Kim is back on the same ice where that incident took place 10 months ago, Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul, as a member of the South Korea team at the International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating.

Kim has overcome the physical pain and mental blocks that come from an injury of such magnitude to make the national team earlier this year. And through the season's first three World Cups -- which serve as the Olympic qualifying events -- Kim is ranked ninth in the 1,500 meters and 11th in the 1,000m, safely in the qualifying zone for next year's PyeongChang Winter Games.

South Korean short track speed skater Kim A-lang speaks to reporters during International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2017. The red circle shows bandages over a scar Kim sustained after taking a skate blade to the face during an earlier race in Seoul. (Yonhap)
South Korean short track speed skater Kim A-lang speaks to reporters during International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2017. The red circle shows bandages over a scar Kim sustained after taking a skate blade to the face during an earlier race in Seoul. (Yonhap)

She is competing with a bandage to cover her scar on the left cheek.

Asked if the memory of the incident holds her back at all, Kim said she's trying to keep negative thoughts out of her mind.

"I am trying to overcome fear, especially when I try to accelerate," she said. "I am afraid of getting hurt again but I just try not to think about it too much."

At the time of the incident, Kim said she was actually more worried whether she'd injured her ankle or back, the two areas where she'd been dealing with some lingering pain.

With her second straight Olympic appearance just around the corner, Kim said she'd love nothing more than to repeat as the relay champion. She was a member of the gold medal-winning team at the 3,000m relay at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Everyone got on the podium together as the relay champions, and I was really happy," she said. "In addition to individual races, I want to make contributions to the team event."

As for her scar, Kim said she will have her removal procedure after the Olympics. (Yonhap)

 

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