Kim Bo-keun grew up playing baseball in the baseball-crazed city of Busan. While he was taking a break from the sport, Kim found himself at a national luge start competition in July 2020, after some nudging from his older brother, who had already taken up the sliding sport.
Kim finished third in that event. Impressed with Kim's raw athleticism, a luge coach on the scene approached him. Once the coach found out Kim was 14 years old, he told the teenager that he would be eligible for the Winter Youth Olympics taking place in South Korea in early 2024. The luge competition was held six months after Gangwon Province, in eastern South Korea, was awarded the quadrennial youth event, open to athletes between 15 and 18.
Even at such a young age then, Kim recognized a good opportunity when he saw one.
"I felt it was my chance to compete at an Olympics, which is something that people normally don't get to do," Kim, now 17, said in an online press conference Tuesday from PyeongChang, some 130 kilometers east of Seoul. It was held three days before the start of the Winter Youth Olympics. "So I jumped into luge because I wanted to seize that opportunity."
But there were some hurdles to clear first. His mother was strongly opposed to having both of her sons competing in the dangerous sliding sport.
"She said having my brother doing luge was enough, and she didn't want me to follow him and risk getting hurt," Kim said. "She was quite worried, but I really wanted to take up luge. So I spent a month trying to change her mind. I finally got her approval, and here I am."
Kim said making it to the Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics was the biggest reason why he started luge in the first place. With the competition just around the corner, and all luge races scheduled for the opening weekend, Kim said he was growing more excited by the day.
"I've met some fellow athletes from overseas. We've had some meals together and talked about our training," Kim said. "It has finally dawned on me that the Youth Olympics will really be happening here."
Kim is about to realize his dream of racing in an Olympic Games, but this will only be the beginning, not the end.
"I am looking at this as my stepping stone for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan," Kim said. "I want to build on my experience here and reach the top." (Yonhap)