There was one Korean-American on the U.S. olympic team and he medaled in the 5,000 meter relay for the short track speed skating team. Simon Cho, an 18 year old speed skater, won the bronze medal with fellow relay members Apolo Ohno, J.R. Celski, and Jordan Malone.
Cho was born in Seoul, South Korea, and began speedskating at age 3 – thanks to a father who saw a son with energy that needed to be channeled.
The family moved to Chicago before settling in Maryland in 2000. Eventually, he hooked up with the current national team coach, Jimmy Jang. Cho moved to Salt Lake City in 2007 – by himself.
“When I first moved to Salt Lake, I was excited,” Cho said. “I was young, I was 15 years old, and I enjoyed being away from home. It was definitely a new realm for me, and I felt like I’d grown up, living on my own. Which wasn’t the case. I thought I’d grown up, but I still had a lot of growing up to do.”
Eventually, Cho’s intense, win-oriented over-training caught up with him. His love for skating was exhausted. But discussions with prominent national team members Shani Davis and Ohno early in 2009 encouraged him to relieve the pressure and free himself to chart a new course.
“Once I was able to regain my passion and love for the sport, skating became really simple,” Cho said. “When I went out there, it was just the simplicity of me loving what I love to do. I lost sight of that in the past.”
His Bio from the NBCOlympics.com
Simon Cho is making his Olympic debut in Vancouver, skating in the 500m. The youngest member of the U.S. team at age 18, Cho earned his spot by winning a 500m race at U.S. Olympic trials. The win came when a fortuitous collision between leaders Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski allowed Cho to cross the line first. Cho had not expected to make the team heading into trials and was planning to quit the sport after the meet. “It was such a huge surprise,” he said. “My mind wouldn’t wrap around it.”
Sticking with it
Cho wanted to quit skating in January 2009, unhappy with his results from that season, calling it “a complete failure.” Cho said he was overtrained, and exhausted mentally and physically. But after talking to friends and family, he decided to continue training through Olympic trials, but with the knowledge that he had to tone down his training. “I’ve learned to take steps to prevent doing that again,” he said. “Just listening to my body more and not ignoring the signs that it’s giving me.” He now plans to continue skating even after Vancouver.
Just two seasons ago, Cho was serving as the “training rabbit” for the women’s team. His job was to pace the girls, going faster than they could but just enough so they could stay near him. “When I lead I don’t go 100 percent,” he said. “I kind of have to gauge myself so that I would go fast enough so that the girls could barely keep up but not slow enough that they weren’t working hard.” Though not a glamorous job, it was Cho’s way of getting to train with the national team. After one season of that, Cho qualified for his first World Cup team in 2006-07, and no longer had to be the rabbit. “Occasionally I still lead for the girls,” he said. “I think it’s good for me and the girls.”
On the move
Cho was born in Seoul, South Korea, where he first started skating at age 3. His father, Jay, noticed that his son had a lot of energy and thought skating would be a good way to release it. The family moved to Chicago when Cho was 5, and he stuck with the sport, skating at several local clubs before moving to Maryland in 2000. National team coach Jimmy Jang joined Cho’s Maryland club as a coach in 2001, and Jang still coaches Cho, now in Salt Lake City. Cho moved to Salt Lake in 2007, and after a few years on his own, Cho’s family recently moved there as well. Now in his junior year of high school, he is taking time off to train and compete in Vancouver, with plans to continue next year.
Most of Cho’s family still lives in Korea, where he travels frequently for competitions and training but has never returend with his family for vacation. Every year there is a World Cup stop in South Korea, and he has spent summers there training as well. Cho speaks Korean at home, though he says he’s more comfortable with English.