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[BEIJING OLYMPICS] S. Korean speed skater Kim Bo-reum celebrates birthday in Beijing

South Korean speed skater Kim Bo-reum trains at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on Sunday, in preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
South Korean speed skater Kim Bo-reum trains at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing on Sunday, in preparation for the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)
South Korean speed skater Kim Bo-reum celebrated her 29th birthday in Beijing on Sunday, the third time she has gotten to mark her big day during a Winter Olympics.

The three-time Olympian is the only South Korean athlete here whose birthday falls during the Feb. 4-20 competition.

Before her training session on Sunday, Kim received a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed doll of the panda Olympic mascot, Bing Dwen Dwen, from the head of the athletic delegation, Yoon Hong-geun.

Speaking to reporters after getting her work done at the National Speed Skating Oval, Kim said her teammates threw her a small party Saturday night, too.

"It is always special to celebrate my birthday during the Olympics, and even more so this year," Kim said. "So many people have sent my happy birthday wishes. I am very thankful."

Kim said her teammates had brought birthday gifts for her from South Korea, including candle, hand cream and body care products.

"I talked to my parents this morning and they thanked me for being their daughter," Kim said with a smile. "I thanked them for being my parents."

Kim won silver in the women's mass start in 2018. Her mass start race in Beijing is scheduled for Feb. 19. With nearly two weeks left before her only race in Beijing, Kim is slowly working her way into peak form.

With two Olympic Games to her credit, Kim said she feels far more comfortable now than in the past. She said she also wished she would have been as carefree off the ice as some of her younger teammates who are either in their first or second Olympics.

"I'd like to think that I have a pretty strong focus on whatever task I am supposed to do, be it on the ice or in everyday life," Kim said. "But my teammates here work hard on the ice and play hard when they're not training. This is something I could learn from them, and it's been a lot of fun being around them."

The mass start made its Olympic debut in 2018. It's the only speed skating race that has all skaters start simultaneously, a la short track speed skating, and there is plenty of jostling and strategizing involved.

In the event's early days, skaters often started slowly, taking almost casual laps around the oval in the early going before picking up speed late. Lately, however, skaters have been kicking into a higher gear much earlier in the race. The mass start has become as much a battle of attrition as race planning.

Kim, diminutive by long distance speed skating standards, said the changing trend in the mass start has at times left her gassed.

"I've been building up my endurance and strength, and Beijing will be the first competition where I'll get to put my new regimen to test," Kim said. "It's a new challenge and I won't back down." (Yonhap)

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