It was a tough season for skiers this winter with many events canceled or scaled down to meet the COVID-19 safety requirements.
However, Seoul YMCA managed to go ahead with its series of competitions for junior ski racers, while strictly complying with all COVID-19 regulations. The organization persevered to give youth skiers a sense of continuance after training hard all season.
“Despite the hardships brought on by COVID-19, we believed it would be important to hold the competitions as usual to give the young skiers a chance to develop their talents and grow as athletes,” said Dr. Gyu Tae Cho, president of Seoul YMCA. “Thankfully, the President of Elysian Ski Resort, Chung Hee Lim, offered to provide the venue for the competition.”
One of the events held most recently was YMCA International School Ski Racing Competition, at Elysian Ski Resort in Gangchon, on the morning of Feb. 22. The competition for students of international schools in Korea was established last year and this was the second annual event.
Over 60 students from 26 international schools in Korea competed for medals in their respective age groups, which were further divided into male and female categories. There were five age groups – under-8, under-10, under-12, under-14 and under-16. The competition began at 9 a.m. and finished about one hour later.
“We paid very close attention to keeping everyone safe during the event, not allowing any parents near the finish lines and keeping the racers socially distanced at all stages of the races. We also decided not to hold awards ceremonies to avoid gathering of crowds. Winners will receive their medals and certificates by mail,” explained Ji Han Ryu, the executive director of the Sport for All Department of Seoul YMCA.
Such restrictions did not dampen the spirits of the participants, who were visibly nervous but excited as they waited their turns at the starting line at the top of the Deer Slope, where the gates were set. The event ran smoothly without any glitches or accidents.
“I was disappointed that so many competitions were canceled, but I am glad I can participate in this event with my friends. I hope to learn from this experience to become a better racer,” said Juhan Lim, a student at Seoul Foreign School.
“It was fun training for this competition, and I am very excited I can display the skills I learned. I think this will be a very memorable event for this winter,” commented Jun Kim, a student at Seoul International School.
YMCA International School Ski Racing Competition is one of three ski-racing competitions for junior skiers organized by Seoul YMCA. The first event, YMCA Youth Ski Competition, was launched in 2013 as part of the celebrations for the Seoul YMCA’s 110th anniversary. At this time, very few sponsors were willing to support youth ski competitions and most competitions were for professional adult racers.
However, Seoul YMCA felt the need to provide opportunities to young skiers to experience alpine ski racing in order to foster talent in the sport.
In 2019, Seoul YMCA separated competitions for professional and non-professional racers. And then last year, responding to requests from the international community in Korea, Seoul YMCA introduced the International School Ski Competition. The event saw participants double in some age groups this year.
“Many things were unclear this ski season, with the COVID-19 situation changing fluidly throughout winter. But young students were continuously seen training hard on the ski slopes, and I am thankful for events such as this which gives the youth skiers an opportunity to experience the thrill of ski racing and grow into more confident athletes,” said Jae Hong Kim, head coach of VIVA Interski and Ski Racing Team, whose team members participated in the event.