ICHEON, South Korea -- South Korean athletes on Thursday vowed to achieve a top-10 finish at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics with the country's first-ever gold medal at the multi-winter sport event for the disabled.
The South Korean delegation for the 2018 Paralympics was launched at Icheon Training Center in Icheon, some 80 kilometers south of Seoul, attended by about 200 guests including Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-hwan.
"I'm proud of all of you to overcome a time of agony," Do said. "I believe that the Paralympic athletes can be a hope for many disabled people."
Athletes and officials pose for a group photo in a launch ceremony for the South Korean delegation for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympics at Icheon Training Center in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 26, 2017. (Yonhap)
Bae Dong-hyun, president of the Korea Nordic Ski Federation for the Disabled, was named the chef de mission for the South Korean Paralympic delegation. He said the South Korean athletes will make new history at the first Winter Paralympics in their homeland.
"We target to show our best ever Paralympics performance to meet the people's expectations and will try to pave the way for the country's disabled sports," he said. "We aim to collect one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in PyeongChang and finish inside the top 10."
South Korea first competed at the Winter Paralympics in 1992, but has yet to win a gold medal. The country has so far collected only two silver medals in the last seven Winter Paralympic Games.
With the home-field advantage, the PyeongChang Paralympics offers a great opportunity for South Koreans to get medals. For the first time, South Koreans have qualified for all six sports at the Paralympics and maximum 39 athletes are expected to compete, helped by 50 coaches and officials. At the 2014 Sochi Paralympics, South Korea sent 27 athletes.
Para-nordic skier Sin Eui-hyun, para-alpine skier Yang Jae-rim, and the wheelchair curling and para-ice hockey teams are considered medal contenders at the PyeongChang Games.
The Korea Paralympic Committee said the athletes on average had a 210-day training and high-tech facilities and equipment were used to help them. Professional trainers from video analyst to icemakers also gave tips, while researchers from the Korea Institute of Sport Science also supported them, according to the KPC.
The PyeongChang Winter Paralympics will be staged from March 9 to 18 next year. The event follows the Winter Olympics that will be staged from Feb. 9 to 25.
The Winter Paralympics will take place at the same venues as the Winter Olympics. The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as most snow sports, will be staged in PyeongChang, while alpine skiing events will be contested in Jeongseon, some 215 kilometers east of Seoul. Gangneung, the coastal city in Gangwon Province, will host all ice sports during the Paralympics.
At the PyeongChang Paralympics, 78 gold medals are up for grabs in four snow sports -- para alpine skiing, para snowboard, para biathlon and para cross-country skiing. Two ice sports -- para ice hockey and wheelchair curling -- offer one gold medal each. (Yonhap)