UPDATE : 2018.3.21 WED 11:32
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1st Olympics provide huge learning experience for young short trackers

Four out of five South Korean male speed skaters made their Winter Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018 this month, and to a man, they said they couldn't have asked for a better learning experience.

And they mostly learned their lessons the hard way.

Lim Hyo-jun, 21, was the only South Korean man to win gold here, as he took the 1,500-meter title. He added a bronze in the 500m too. But in the 5,000m relay, Lim slipped and fell midway through the 45-lap race when South Korea was leading, and the team ended up finishing fourth.

South Korean male short track speed skaters hold a press conference at Team Korea House inside Gangneung Olympic Park in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 23, 2018. From left: Kwak Yoon-gy, Kim Do-kyoum, Seo Yi-ra, Lim Hyo-jun and Hwang Dae-heon. (Yonhap)

Lim said his failure to rise to the occasion in the relay still weighed heavily on him.

"I feel terrible about my mistake, but I hope to emerge a better skater from this," Lim said at a national team press conference at Team Korea House inside Gangneung Olympic Park in Gangneung, just east of PyeongChang.

"I will try to make sure I won't make the same mistake in the future," Lim added. "Everyone, from my teammates to coaches, has been great as far as teaching me all sorts of things and giving me so much strength."

Hwang Dae-heon, the youngest member of the team at 18, contributed a silver in the 500m. But he also dwelled on his own missed calls; Hwang didn't come close to a medal in the 1,000m and 1,500m, where he'd been expected to do far better.

"I am leaving my first Olympics with a lot of disappointments, and I'll try to address my shortcomings," he said. "I'll continue to work hard so I can become a perfect skater."

Seo Yi-ra, the 25-year-old bronze medalist in the 1,000m, is an eternal optimist, as his teammates tell it. And unlike Lim and Hwang, Seo said he takes away nothing but fun memories from PyeongChang 2018.

South Korean short track speed skater Kim Do-kyoum (2nd from L) consoles teammate Lim Hyo-jun after Lim fell during the final of the men's 5,000-meter relay of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 22, 2018. (Yonhap)

"I've had such great times with my coaching staff and teammates," he said. "And I was able to enjoy short track even more at this Olympics. I hope I can keep enjoying this sport."

Kim Do-kyoum, 24, only participated in the relay. Though he didn't win a medal, Kim said it was still "a great personal honor" to be a member of the Olympic team.

"I know better than anyone how hard everyone prepared for the Olympics, and I am really proud of all that hard work," Kim said. "I will always remember the camaraderie we built. And I think my experience here will help me become an even better athlete. I am grateful for it."

Kwak Yoon-gy, the 2010 Olympic relay silver medalist, was the elder statesman at 28. The 2012 world overall champion thanked the younger teammates for sticking together through the ups and downs of Olympic training.

"All the training sessions from the past year have come flooding back to me," Kwak said. "There were times when we were so exhausted, but we can all laugh about them now. I am so proud of my teammates."

Kim Sua  edt@koeapost.com

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