South Korea's twin curlers Lee Ki-bok and Lee Ki-jeong have different personalities, but when it comes to curling, the two share the same dream of winning the country's first medal in the sport at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
"My older brother smiles while playing, but I tend to be a little serious," Ki-jeong of South Koreas's mixed doubles team said, claiming that the difference nevertheless brings "balance" between the two. Ki-bok will compete for the men's team at the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Ki-bok and Ki-jeong were raised together in Gangwon Province, which houses the host county of PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul. During the 2017 World Junior Curling Championships, they both played for the men's team and grabbed the country's first gold medal at the competition.
South Korean curler Lee Ki-bok (L) and Lee Ki-jeong pose for a photo in Gangneung, some 240 kilometers east of Seoul, in this file photo taken on Nov. 27, 2017. (Yonhap)
But as the 2018 Winter Games drew closer, Ki-jeong decided to take a different road from his brother by seeking to compete in mixed doubles, which will be contested for the first time in PyeongChang. The decision was attributed to their different characteristics.
"As there are only two players (in mixed doubles), I thought I would have more leeway," Ki-jeong, who will play with his partner Jang Hye-ji, said. "And since it is the first time for the Olympics to adopt mixed doubles, I believed that the chances to win medals are also higher."
Curling normally involves four-member teams composed of a lead, second, third and skip. Mixed doubles, however, calls for two players, one male and one female.
Ki-bok, whom colleagues often describe as having relatively "gentle" characteristics, decided to keep his position on the men's team.
"Whether I can win a medal or not, I am running for the four-member team as I feel happiest here," Ki-bok said.
While Ki-bok was the first to win a ticket to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the older Lee said he wasn't happy until his younger brother joined the national team as well.
"I couldn't be happy even after winning a ticket for the national team because of my brother," Ki-bok said. "After he was also selected as a member of the national mixed doubles team three weeks later, I was honored and delighted."
Despite competing in different events at the 2018 Winter Games, the brothers said they both wish to grab medals to pave the way for the future of South Korean curling.
"The upcoming Winter Games will play a decisive role in the future of South Korean curling," Ki-jeong said. "We need to achieve good results for the development of curling. We also wish to give a little joy to South Koreans facing difficult times."
The brothers said they wish to share each others' experiences in different events and develop into better curlers going forward.
"We wish to be together for future Olympics down the road," they added.
The Lees, however, are not the only national curling team members connected by family ties. Kim Min-jung, head coach of the women's curling squad, is married to Jang Ban-seok, who heads the mixed doubles team. Kim Min-chan of the men's team is Min-jung's younger brother. Kim Kyung-ae and Kim Young-mi of the women's squad are sisters.
For the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, three gold medals are at stake for the men's, women's and mixed teams, with Gangneung, a sub-host city close to PyeongChang, hosting all the curling matches. (Yonhap)