“I think it is very meaningful to have the first Paralympic Winter Games in Korea. I am expecting the Games, as well wishing to stand on the podium.”
South Korean snowboarder Suhyeok Park is not letting the high competition dash his hopes of competing in his home Paralympic Winter Games at PyeongChang 2018.
The 17-year-old is entering his third full season in the sport and knows it will take a lot to qualify for next year’s Games, amid all the competition in the men’s SB-UL category. But he is focusing on the small steps needed to get him there.
“At this moment, my goal is to gain more points,” Park said heading into the 2017-18 season.
“[I want] to be ranked in top 10 snowboarders. For now, I want to finish the courses given at each competition with a top-middle rank.”
Park competed in the season-opening Audi quattro Winter Games New Zealand, which was split over two days in September between the World Para Snowboard Southern Hemisphere Cup and World Cup. Park finished 11th out of 13 in banked slalom in both events.
He still has more competitions ahead before PyeongChang 2018 to garner enough points.
So far, Park said his best competition was banked slalom in last year’s World Cup and Europa Cup events in Landgraaf, Netherlands, which drew a strong field.
“It was the first experience for me meeting athletes from all over the world. I remember the pressure and excitement of the time,” Park said. “I was astonished at how fast snowboarders could complete the course even with their disabilities.”
Leading his class is world champion and last season’s overall World Cup winner Mike Minor. The US snowboarder showed strong form in Treble Cone, winning both races and proving he will be tough to catch.
“I assume [I can reach their levels] within two to three years if I keep on training,” Park added.
Park first learned about Para sports in middle school. He said his physical education teacher was passionate enough to prep him to compete in Para athletics.
But Park wanted to try a new experience and picked up Para snowboard when he learned South Korea was putting together a team.
Although he has a long way to go to qualify for the Games, he wants to show he has what it takes to compete at a high level, especially on his home snow.
“I think it is very meaningful to have the first Paralympic Winter Games in Korea. I am expecting the Games, as well wishing to stand on the podium,” Park said.
“I want to show my best performance to the athletes from [around] the world in the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games.”