South Korean Short Track Skaters Shim Suk Hee and Choi Min Jeong Win Gold Medals
Michael Song, Dec. 14, 2015, 9:57 a.m.
South Korean short trackers Shim Suk-hee and Choi Min-jeong, the sport's latest dynamic duo, have been sweeping up one gold medal after another in their dominant 2015-2016 international season, each crediting the other with helping improve her performance. Shim, 18, and Choi, 17, have combined for 18 gold medals in four competitions so far during the International Skating Union (ISU) Short Track World Cup season. Not counting relay gold medals, Shim has won four individual races and Choi has won six.
At the most recent event that concluded in Shanghai on Sunday, they won two gold medals apiece. Choi leads all female skaters in World Cup points in the 1,000 meters, while Shim is the leader in the 1,500 meters. Thanks to their prowess, South Korea has won all four 3,000m relays so far.
In only her second international season at the senior level, Choi has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, winning six out of eight individual races, along with a silver. For all the great prizes, though, Choi said she's focused more on building experience this season than on winning races. She said her decision to enter the 500m -- traditionally a weak link for South Koreans -- at two different World Cup stops reflects her desire to challenge herself and to address her shortcomings.
"If I had been competing just to win medals, I'd have been racing only in long distance events," she told reporters at Incheon International Airport. The next World Cup race isn't until the first week of February in Dresden, Germany. "This is only my second year on the national team and I need to become better at managing my races," Choi added. "For this World Cup season, I am trying to improve in that area."
With two more World Cup competitions left this season, Choi said she hopes her experience will come in handy at the ultimate event, the Winter Olympics in 2018 on home ice in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. "For now, I'd like to wrap up this season without getting injured and defend my overall title at the world championships in March," Choi added. "The bigger the goal, the better it is."
And she said Shim, who won her first Olympic gold as a 17-year-old phenom at the 2014 Sochi Games, couldn't have been a better teammate. "Certainly, she and I have been pulling each other and getting better together," Choi said. "It's all thanks to her that I am posting better results this season than the last." Shim said the feeling is mutual, saying she feeds off Choi's energy in practice and in competition.
"We get along with each other so well that I think it has had a positive effect on our performance on the ice, too," Shim added. Shim, too, said she wants to stay healthy the rest of the season, and she barely avoided getting seriously hurt in Shanghai. During the 1,000m final, Shim suffered a thigh bruise after tripping over a Chinese skater's blade and falling hard to the ice. She said it was "fortunate" the injury wasn't any more severe and that she should have plenty of time until the next World Cup race to recuperate. "With an eye on the PyeongChang Olympics, I am trying to get better and better," Shim added.