“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”
~Olympic Charter, Fundamental Principles
You may see them on the cover of Wheaties cereal boxes sometime soon. Or, they’ll be on the national newspaper covers. They’ll be interviewed on the morning news programs. These are the Olympic athletes of this year’s Winter Olympics, and they have much to discuss about their sports, their performances, and the stories of their rises to Olympic competition.
It’s an opportunity for the world to set aside its squabbles and relish in our combined abilities as a human race. If North Korea and South Korea can do it (since they’re technically still at war and they’ve collaborated with their Olympic teams), all of us can!
In this week’s post, I thought I would survey three of this Winter Olympics 2018’s heroes in Pyeongchang, South Korea—Yun Sung-Bin, Chloe Kim, and Pita Taufatofua. These Olympians are noteworthy not only because they made it to the Winter Olympics 2018, but for far more as you’ll read below.
Home Team Advantage | Winter Olympics
Let’s start with the home team, South Korea, for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. Originally from the south central island county of Namhae, Yun Sung-Bin was 18 years old when he was urged by a university professor to take up skeleton racing. What’s that, you ask? It’s a sport where skaters lie face down on a small sled and shoot down an iced skeleton track. Don’t worry, not many people knew this was a sport either.
Known colloquially as Skeleton Emperor in his country, Yun (his family name) skyrocketed to acclaim for several reasons. He’s the first Olympic gold medalist from South Korea for a non-ice skating event. He’s also the first non-European/North American Olympic sliding medalist. Pretty remarkable story for a person whose last Winter Olympics left him in 16th position! And, he did this all during the Lunar New Year holiday, so it’s really been exceptionally exciting for the South Korean people.
Yun’s celebrity isn’t going to go to waste. He’s on a personal mission to bring more athletes, and exposure, to skeleton. There’s more great things to come from this Olympian’s athleticism and personal drive for this sport.
USA, USA, USA | Winter Olympics
Up next is Chloe Kim. She’s ethnically Korean, but she hails from Long Beach, California. And, she’s the 17-year-old star of Olympic snowboarding this year at the Winter Olympics. She’s had a stellar performance at this Winter Olympics, as the youngest Olympian to bring home the gold medal for snowboard halfpipe.
Kim is trilingual (English, Korean and French), has won the gold four times at the X Games, and secured a gold medal at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. But, most powerful about Chloe is her down-to-earth personality while being a superb athlete.
She’s become a Social Media sensation following her representing USA at the Winter Olympics, as perhaps the precursor to becoming a representative for Generation Z. Positive role models for the up-and-coming generation are important, and Kim is setting the standard high.
A Tongan with Cross-Country Skis | Winter Olympics
#ZDFwinterspiele #PyeongChang2018 Die Spiele sind eröffnet! Große Begeisterung löste erneut der mutige Pita Taufatofua aus Tonga aus. Bei den Sommerspielen 2016 war der 34-jährige als Taekwondoka mit seinem eingeölten freien Oberkörper ein Blickfang der Eröffnungsfeier geween. Für Pyeongchang hat er auf Langlauf umgeschult, und er wollte vernünftig sein. "Ich werde sehr, sehr dicke Kleidung tragen. Ich will bei meinem Rennen schließlich noch lebendig sein", hatte er angekündigt. Ein Bluff: Taufatofua kam bei Minusgraden und schneidendem Wind in Sandalen, mit Röckchen und freiem Oberkörper, wieder gut geölt. (Bild 1) Doch die 23. Olympischen Winterspiele haben auch mit machtvoller politischer Symbolik begonnen. Ein historischer Handschlag zwischen Südkoreas Präsident Moon Jae In und der jüngeren Schwester des nordkoreanischen Machthabers Kim Jong Un, Kim Yo Jong, demonstrierte in Pyeongchang die vorsichtige Annäherung der verfeindeten Bruderstaaten Nord- und Südkorea. (Bild 2) Während der Eröffnungsfeier der Winterspiele sendet außerdem der gemeinsame Einzug der süd- und nordkoreanischen Sportler ein Zeichen der Hoffnung. (Bild 3) Viele Tänzer und Künstler lieferten den 35 000 Menschen im Stadion ein buntes Showprogramm. (Bild 4) Die 153-köpfige deutsche Mannschaft wurde von Fahnenträger Eric Frenzel (Kombinierer) ins Stadion geführt. (Bild 5)
Last but not least is the Tongan-Australian, formerly of the Australian taekwondo team, Pita Taufatofua. He became famous in in the Summer Olympics 2016, you might remember, for his flag-bearing appearance in the Parade of Nations, wearing nothing but a traditional Tongan taʻovala (a ceremonial skirt made of leaves and other plant fibers), flip-flops, and an oiled-up upper body. His glistening vistage was quickly made into global news.
Taufatofua performed in that Olympics and lost in the first round. With Hollywood and modeling gigs beckoning him, he turned them down and did what any rational Olympian would do. He decided a new athletic challenge and joined the Australian cross-country skiing team. This is a 34-year-old who had only seen snow for the first time a couple years before.
But, Taufatofua is not just a pretty face for the paparazzi. He’s got an engineering degree and is working on a master’s degree in the same field of academic study. When he’s not training (six hours of the day), he works his job at the Sandgate House in Brisbane, teaching independent living skills to homeless youth.
Pita Taufatofua is a story of genuine joie de vivre and an inspiration for all of us to experience life to the fullest.
The average American doesn’t know this, but Olympians don’t become wealthy from their performance in the Olympics games. Hence, why Taufatofua holds a dayjob. As explained by USA Today Sports,
They’re never going to get rich off their sport. It might, in some cases, even cost them. The biathletes, the curlers, the ski jumpers, the lugers and the Nordic combined athletes — they scrape by with help from their families and federations, juggle training with part-time jobs.
They train for years, just so that they can compete for approximately two weeks every quadrennial, otherwise out of the public eye.
These athletes aren’t in this to get rich quick. They’re there because of the fundamental principles of the Olympics Charter, by providing models for ethical standards of living, principled means to finding joy in life, and all that is embodied by the Olympics Movement. We can all take stock in finding ways to incorporate those concepts into our everyday lives in mind, body and spirit, as these Olympians have done.