South Korea’s No.14 Seung-Hwan Jung is known for the fastest ice sledge hockey player in the world. Jung, nicknamed ‘Rocket Man’, was named the IPC Athlete of the month in November, 2009. He also received the MVP award at the IPC World in Sledge Hockey Championships A-Pool in Norway in 2012.
Jung and his teammates are gearing up for the 2018 Winter Paralympics, held in their home, Pyeongchang, Korea. In an interview with Seung-Hwan Jung, I found out how he feels, ahead of Pyeongchang 2018.
EJ Monica Kim: Have you recovered a rib fracture which you sustained at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi?
Seung-Hwan Jung: I wasn’t able to play ice sledge hockey for four weeks, after Sochi 2014. I recovered it completely now.
Kim: How do you feel about Pyeongchang 2018 which will be held in your country?
Jung: I’m very happy that such a big event’ll be held in my country. We have had most games overseas, so our family and friends didn’t have a chance to see how we play. I’m very excited to show our performances to them.
And we are going to compete on the ice rink where we always train and play. In terms of ice quality, it reminds me of my first international tournament. At that time, I couldn’t sled on the ice rink properly, as my sledge blades didn’t get used to that ice quality. It was quite shocking memory for me.
Of course, I don’t have problems to play on any ice rinks now, but I believe that it’ll be a great advantage for our team to contest at home.
Kim: What are your concerns, ahead of the 2018 Winter Paralympics?
Jung: My biggest concern is lack of interest and support towards para-sports in Korea, in general. I hope to receive continued support for many things including equipment and a training venue.
The team purchases all equipment from overseas. We are in fear of breaking them down, because we can’t afford to have spare sticks or sledges.
Also, we always move from city to city to look for our training venue, as we don’t have our own one. This kind of poor environment makes us difficult to concentrate on training.
Moreover, I’m worried about lack of players who can be a substitute for main players, in case they get injured. I wish that a better environment is arranged, as soon as possible, in order to train and develop many young players for the 2018 Winter Paralympics as well as for further future.
Our passion for the sport is not the only thing to make us continue it. We do need support.
Kim: What is your aim for the 2018 Winter Paralympics?
Jung: Of course, to make it on to the podium. I want to share the joy of winning a medal with my teammates and family.
Seung-Hwan Jung had his left leg amputated, after an accident at age five. He encountered ice sledge hockey in his first year at university in 2004, and it was the first para-sport for him to play. Although his parents opposed him to play the sport, as it looked dangerous and tough, they could not thwart his passion for the sport. He has been representing Korea since 2006.
South Korea’s ice sledge hockey team has made remarkable achievements in a brief time, since the sport was introduced in the country in 2000. South Korea has competed at Winter Paralympic Games in 2010 and 2014 consecutively. Moreover it took home a first medal in Korea’s ice hockey history, when the team won a silver medal at the 2012 IPC World Ice Sledge Hockey Championships A-Pool in Harmar, Norway.
Despite their outstanding improvements, a lack of support towards ice sledge hockey makes players difficult to continue the sport.