Short track champion Choi Min-jeong trying to stay above fray on ice
BEIJING-- Often a picture of calm, South Korean short track champion Choi Min-jeong is bothered by very few things. Even the prospect of dirty play by handsy opponents can't faze the two-time Olympic gold medalist from 2018.
The 23-year-old will take aim at multiple medals for the second straight Olympics in Beijing. She and the rest of her team had their first training session at Capital Indoor Stadium on Monday to get a better feel for the ice. The short track competition will open Saturday, the day after the opening ceremony, with the inaugural mixed team relay.
"So many things are different today compared to four years ago at the PyeongChang Olympics, and I am trying to stay optimistic," Choi told reporters after her training. "Since this is my second Olympics, I am not as nervous. I hope I can get good results at the end."
Choi was asked about going up against physical skaters from the host country, China. South Korea is the all-time leader with 24 gold medals in Olympic short track history, and China is second with 10. Now with former South Korea head coach Kim Sun-tae in charge, China will look to narrow that gap on home ice.
"It's not just the Chinese skaters; I will do my best not to get tangled up with anyone else," Choi said. "I will try to be as steady as possible."
Choi has built her career on her ability to kick into that extra gear in later laps, using her burst of speed to overtake skaters on the outside rather than risking collisions on the inside.
As for going up against Kim, her coach from the 2018 Olympics, Choi said, "He helped me a great deal back then, but our roles have changed. I am looking forward to our friendly competition."
The mixed team relay, which will involve two female and two male skaters aside, will make its Olympic debut in Beijing. Choi said she feels those who excel in short distance events would be well suited for the 2,000m mixed relay.
"Since this will be the inaugural race, I will carry a sense of responsibility with me to the ice," Choi said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency