They were both born in the United States, but Min Yu-ra and Alexander Gamelin will get to represent host South Korea as its lone ice dancing tandem at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics next February.
And they'd like nothing more than to make South Korea proud.
Min was born in California to Korean parents and has dual Korean and US citizenship. Gamelin, a Massachusetts-native, obtained his Korean passport in July. They had been skating together internationally as a South Korean team since 2015, and to compete at the Olympics, both had to have Korean citizenship.
Gamelin took care of that in July. And in September, they secured their Olympic ticket at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final qualification event for skaters who hadn't already earned their berths at the World Figure Skating Championships in March.
|South Korean ice dance team of Min Yu-ra (L) and Alexander Gamelin practice at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Nov. 30, 2017, ahead of the national qualifying competition for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)|
The Min-Gamelin duo will skate in the second stage of the national Olympic qualification this weekend at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul. This is Gamelin's first competition on Korean ice since his naturalization, and he said coming into the country with a new passport felt "different."
"I was very proud to become a Korean citizen. Coming back here as a Korean citizen makes me feel very honored," he said at the pre-competition press conference at the rink. "I feel more welcomed in Korea."
In an homage to Korean culture and heritage, the two skate their free program to "Arirang," perhaps the best-known Korean folk song, while dressed in the traditional costume, or hanbok.
Min said Arirang's tempo and rhythm fit perfectly with their choreography.
"It was almost like fate that we should skate to it," she said. "We represent Korea, and we chose Arirang and hanbok because they both represent the Korean culture."
Gamelin said he liked the idea of being in a Korean skating tandem to show the world Korean culture at an Olympics held on the Korean ice. But he wants to more than just to showcase the culture of his adopted nation.
"Since we're such a new team skating together, our goal for PyeongChang is to really skate our best and show the world we can compete with teams that have been skating together a long time already," he said. "We just want to skate strong programs and make Korea proud."
As the only ice dancing team on the ice, the upcoming competition will essentially serve as a rehearsal for the Olympics for the duo.
"Since we don't have any major international event between now and PyeongChang, we're really focusing on cleaning up our elements," Gamelin said. "We want to make everything look more polished so we can really present a good program at the Olympics." (Yonhap)