Jim Paek
Getty Images

South Korean Olympic hockey coach: My expectation is gold

Leave a comment

South Korea men’s hockey coach Jim Paek is, in a sense, ignoring the Olympic host nation’s long odds at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“My expectation is gold, absolutely,” Paek, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “Why do we even play if we don’t prepare to win the gold? In order for us to be successful, we have to think and act like an elite team. Win or lose, I don’t have the crystal ball. But I know we’ve prepared extremely hard for the last three years.”

Paek, the first South Korean-born NHL player, was hired almost exactly three years ago to develop the men’s program into a respectable Olympic team.

Paek replaced a coach who guided South Korea at a low-tier 2014 World Championship tournament to an 0-5 record with a minus-20 goal differential.

This year, the South Koreans won four of five games in the same tournament with a mix of native Koreans and naturalized Canadians. Their top defenseman and goalie, both Canadian-born, had brief NHL stints.

They received promotion to the top-level world championship for the first time next year.

“We’ve earned [our way] into that elite level of hockey,” Paek said, according to Yonhap. “We understand that it’s a different world, but we’re going to try to make them chase us. I believe we can do that.”

Still, South Korea is the lowest-ranked nation in the 2018 Olympic tournament at 21st overall, six spots below the next lowest, Slovenia. They’re grouped in PyeongChang with Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, three nations ranked in the top seven in the world.

“I hope Canada thinks [it can win handily] so we can slide in there and beat them,” Paek said with a smile, according to Yonhap.

The South Koreans should benefit from the NHL not participating in the Olympics for the first time since 1994. They will also learn from joining Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic in a pre-Olympic tournament in Russia in December.

“If we lose by 100 goals or whatever before the Olympics, that’s OK,” Paek said, according to Yonhap. “You have to fail in order to get better.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Russian hockey star stays in KHL, cites Olympics as key

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

Getty Images
1 Comment

In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!