After all the excitement from the Winter Olympic games we can’t wait to turn our attention to the Paralympics as they promise to bring as much excitement as the Winter Olympics did! 570 athletes from 49 different countries have made their way to PyeongChang for the games and will be competing for the 133 medals available across all events.
What are the Paralympics?
The Paralympics originated in Great Britain in 1948 as a competition for wheelchair athletes, it took a while for the games to become what they are today as the first games consisted of 16 athletes competing in an Archery competition. In 1952 Dutch athletes also competed making it an international event. 8 years later the official Paralympics were born, 400 athletes from 23 countries travelled to Rome to be a part of history. In 1976 history continued to be made as Sweden held the first Winter Paralympics and 198 athletes from 16 countries competed in Alpine Skiing and Cross Country Skiing. Since the inaugural games in 1976 they have expanded into the spectacle we see today, the games now host 6 different events and athletes are split depending on their classification of disability.
To be invited to the Paralympics athletes must fall into one of the following categories of disability; Amputee, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual disability, Wheelchair user, Visually Impaired and Les Autres which translates to “The Others” and includes dwarfism and multiple sclerosis amongst other disabilities. The athletes generally compete against athletes with similar disabilities but in some events this is not possible and the extent of their disability will effect their time, this means you do not necessarily have to be the quickest to win Gold.
There are six events at this years games; Alpine Skiing, Snowboarding, Nordic Skiing, Wheelchair Curling and Ice Hockey. All of the events follow a similar format to what we witnessed at the Olympics but the athletes have specialist equipment designed for their needs. However the Ice Hockey and Curling events will see men and women competing together and watch out for the visually impaired skiers who will be following a guide down the mountain!
South Korea at the Paralympics
In the Summer Paralympics South Korea have been very successful, ranked 14th of all time with 126 Gold 106 Silver and 109 Bronze Medals. Since first competing in the Winter Paralympics in 1992 the summer success is yet to be replicated, South Korea are ranked 7th of all time but have only ever won 2 Silver medals.
Han Sang Min won the first Silver medal in 2002, he came into the games as an outsider and has said himself he was just happy to be there but he managed to win South Korea’s first medal in Alpine Skiing. The second medal came in 2010 from the Wheelchair Curling team; they got off to a shaky start but brushed away the competition before narrowly losing 8-7 to Canada in the gold medal match.
This year South Korea will be taking their largest team so far consisting of 36 athletes, they have been set a target of 1 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals with a top 10 finish.
Where are the medals going to come from? Well, Han Sang Min will be returning to the slopes for his 4th games and will be hoping he can find his way back to the podium in his home nation. Yang Jae Rim is also competing in the Alpine Skiing, she finished 4th at Sochi 2014 and has her sights set on a podium finish this time round.
The curling team has changed a lot in 8 years since winning Silver but is still highly ranked and after the success of the “Garlic Girls” they will have the home crowd behind them and we hope they can make it into the finals and replicate their Olympic success!
Ice Hockey is where the Korean athletes will be most confident of a medal, in Sochi they finished bottom of their group but managed to beat eventual Silver medalists Russia in an overtime win. Since then the team has become a force to be reckoned with, in 2017 they won Bronze in the World Championships beating Norway and won a warm up tournament earlier this year, beating Norway in the final.
But if the Winter Olympics taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected and any of the 36 Korean athletes could find their way on to the podium and we will be cheering all of them on as the games go on!
Written by Imran Ali
Featured image: © Olympic Park Seoul, 08.02.2018, www.inspiremekorea.com