South Korean para-cross country skier Bo-Gue Choi won a surprise bronze medal in the men’s visually impaired race at the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan, following French and Norwegian competitors.
It was his first international tournament since he competed at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi last March.
Choi said that he did not expect to make the podium at all. “Actually, I couldn’t prepare for this event as much as I did, ahead of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. Therefore, I thought that ‘just do my best’,” he said.
The 21-year-old sounded excited of his unexpected remarkable result, when he talked about how he felt after crossing the finish line during a phone interview.
“I couldn’t imagine how I would feel, if I won a medal. When I finished third in this event, I was very happy, because I felt like that I made one step closer to world-class skiers.”
He has teamed up with guide Jungryun Seo who also led him in Sochi. “It will be great for me to continue skiing with Seo until 2018, if circumstances allow,” Choi said.
He said that he has changed his attitude towards the next Winter Paralympics, after having his first experience last year.
“I heard that my physical strength was the biggest weakness, after Sochi 2014, so I’ve concentrated on increasing it. I’m aiming to improve on everything including ski postures and levels of fitness, in order to achieve better result at PyeongChang 2018.”
Despite of his outstanding improvements, he is not sure whether he can travel to Norway for March’s World Cup Finals. “Of course I want to compete at the World Cup Finals next month, but I don’t think that I can, due to the limited budget of the Federation…,” he said.
In South Korea, para-athletes are struggling with an overall lack of support. Only four skiers took part in February’s World Cup, because the Korea Para Nordic Skiing Federation could not afford to support expenses to more athletes.
Moreover, there is not still a proper training venue for para-skiers yet in 2018 Winter Paralympics’ host country. Currently, all para and able-bodied skiers train together in a competition venue in Kangwon Province where PyeongChang is located.
Bo-gue Choi relies on a training schedule of the national team, because he is not belonging to a club team, and he does not have a personal coach, either. The schedule, however, is not arranged often, so what he can do is just to keep doing weight training alone.
“I believe that support for para-sports will get better and better soon, ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
Choi could make his Paralympics debut in Sochi, thanks to a wild card entry. He emphasised that he will obtain a ticket to PyeongChang 2018 by his own efforts. “This time, I’ll try my best to be qualified for the 2018 Winter Paralympics by myself,” he firmly said.
Bo-Gue Choi was born prematurely, resulting in a visual impairment. He took up para-cross country skiing in 2013. He was into the sport, because he felt a sense of achievement, while skiing.