South Korean ice sledge hockey captain Han Min-su said Saturday he is happy to retire from the ice with the Paralympic Games bronze medal.
South Korea beat Italy 1-0 in the ice hockey bronze medal game of the PyeongChang Paralympics at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. It was the country's first ever ice hockey medal at the Winter Paralympics.
After the team earned the historic medal, Han burst into tears on the ice and hugged South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who attended the game with first lady Kim Jung-sook and Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan.
Han, 47, said the bronze medal is the result of great teamwork.
"I had a sleepless night ahead of this bronze medal game because I felt so much pressure," Han said. "When we scored a goal in the third period, the last two minutes felt like one hour. But we all stayed focused and encouraged each other, which is why we sealed the victory in the end."
Han, however, confirmed that this would be his last match as a player. He said he will pursue a coaching career to help young para ice hockey players.
"Like one says, 'Leave when you get a round of applause,' I think it's about time to end my playing career," he said. "But the end is the new beginning. I'm planning to become the first coach with an impairment and teach young players."
Han has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in his legs since age 2, and at age 30, it got worse as he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis. As a result, his left leg had to be amputated below the knee.
Han has played para ice hockey since 2000 and made his international debut in 2006. Before PyeongChang 2018, he was a member of the national para ice hockey team that took sixth at Vancouver 2010 and seventh at Sochi 2014.
"Now that we earned bronze, we have to go for the gold medal," he said. "I believe our valuable experience here will be our first step to the gold medal." (Yonhap)