Jae Rim Yang believes the strong bond that unites her with guide and friend Un So Ri Ko will be fundamental in her aspirations to reach the podium at her home Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, next March.
Since they started training together in 2015, Yang and Ri Ko have built a close friendship which they believe helps them learn more about their partner and understand each other’s way of thinking and skiing.
“For visually impaired athletes like me, there is an inevitable fear of high speed, which is why it is so important to have someone like Ri Ko,” said Yang. “She helps me overcome this fear and enjoy skiing even more.
“We call ourselves the ‘Tom and Jerry’ of the South Korean national team. I would be Tom, always trying to catch Jerry Ri Ko, who is running ahead.”
After an injury that kept her from the ski slopes for some months, the 27-year-old made her comeback in the 2016/17 season, achieving several World Cup podium finishes and competing at the World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy.
“I enjoyed competing at the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event, where I could test myself,” said Yang. "I was not ready to reach the podium this time, but my focus was on completing the Paralympic course and ending the season without any injury.”
With the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games fast approaching, Yang already imagines what it will be like to compete in front of her family and friends.
“I am looking forward to racing with the support of my family, friends and the South Korean crowd,” she said. “It will be a once in a lifetime experience!”
Yang made her Paralympic debut at Sochi 2014, where she finished fourth in the women’s giant slalom visually impaired. She is now hoping to take another step forward on home snow. But if she wants to achieve her goals, Yang will have to overcome her main fear.
“I get scared when I go faster and faster,” she said. “But I also have fun. In the end, alpine skiing is all about speed and you cannot win if you do not defeat that fear.”
The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place from 9-18 March.