South Korean wheelchair curler Seo Soon-seok said Saturday he was notified just hours before the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics that he would light the Paralympic cauldron with a fellow curler.
Seo and Kim Eun-jung, a member of the South Korean women's curling team that won silver at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, were the final torchbearers for the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics.
The two athletes lit the cauldron together at the Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Friday.
|South Korean wheelchair curler Seo Soon-seok(left) and Kim Eun-jung, a member of the national women's curling team, were selected to light the Paralympic cauldron on Friday in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)|
Seo, 48, said it was an unforgettable experience to serve as a cauldron lighter at an event watched by people around the world.
"I thought I would feel too nervous about it, but as I stepped on the stage for the cauldron lighting, I was amazed and blown away," Seo said.
According to Seo, the cauldron lighters were originally a South and a North Korean athlete and he and Kim were reserves. But since the two Koreas failed to reach an agreement on a joint march at the opening ceremony, he and Kim were finally selected as the cauldron lighters.
"I was told during lunchtime that I would be the cauldron lighter with Kim," he said. "I only practiced the cauldron lighting once, and that was two days before the opening ceremony."
For the lighting, Kim pushed Seo in a wheelchair with the torch and they both lit a small sphere that symbolizes coexistence, before the sacred fire moved onto the moor-jar shaped Paralympic cauldron.
"Maybe because of the snow that fell a day before the opening ceremony, it was difficult to light," he said. "But it's fortunate that the cauldron was lit with the flame in the end."
The organizers later explained that Seo and Kim's torch relay symbolizes coexistence of sport -- Olympic and Paralympic. Seo said he wants to thank Kim, a skip of the curling team that earned nickname "Garlic Girls," for supporting him.
"I know Kim and other members from that team since we met each other frequently at the curling centre," he said. "But it was the first time that I met with Kim after the Olympics."
Seo said Kim gave him various tips and advice on playing at Gangneung Curling Centre, the curling venue for both Olympics and Paralympics. Kim's team was a surprise Olympic sensation with its silver medal run.
"She told me about ice conditions at the venue and other competition environments," he said. "She also told me that home fans' cheers actually gave them energy instead of pressure. Like the women's team, we'll try to collect good results at the Paralympics." (Yonhap)