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WCST KAZ Choi Minjeong (KOR)2018©International Skatig Union (ISU) 933192350

2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

As 2018 ends, few Short Track Speed Skaters can look back at a year as eventful as Choi Min Jeong’s (KOR). Before the Seongnam-born student turned 20 in September she had already become the Overall World Champion for the third time, won the 500m and 1500m World titles, two 1000m World titles plus three Relay World titles. She also achieved her career goal with two gold medals in front of a home crowd at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in the Republic of Korea. After her victories in the 1500m and 3000m Relay in front of 12,000 screaming fans in Gangneung Ice Arena, it is not hard to imagine that her life would never be the same again.

“Many things have changed,” said Choi, who also broke the Olympic 500m record.

“First of all, now I’m famous in Korea.

“It has been an honor and I’ve felt good about it. I want to thank everyone who’s supported me. Many people, young and old, come up to me on the street and want to take a picture with me. It could perhaps be a little bit annoying but I don’t even think about that because I feel so grateful for it. Now it’s just fun.

“And sometimes I’ve been going to restaurants and I’ve got the food for free.”

WCST KAZ Choi Minjeong (KOR)2018©International Skatig Union (ISU) 1070341618

2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

 

Choi is enjoying every second of it, remembering how the fans’ support carried her during the Games. And it is not just to make more space for medals that she might need to move into a bigger room.

“I’ve been sent so many products from companies, and drawings, photos and paintings from fans,” she said.

“I’ve got all of the presents in my room. I don’t have any more space left there, it’s just a bed and lots of presents. But it’s not a problem, I’m always happy to receive them.”

WCST KAZ Choi Minjeong (KOR)2018©International Skatig Union (ISU) 1070503432

2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

The glory aside, she still remembers battling with agony and pressure ahead of her life’s most important competition.

“All of my life, when I had thought about the PyeongChang Olympic Games, I had been very nervous,” she said.

“I went through lots of training and did mental training too – I had a mental coach and we trained to always think positive.

“In the end it was very interesting but I was very nervous. I think that I wasn’t experienced enough. But after the PyeongChang Olympic Games I feel like I’ve got lots of experience. It was good and a happy time for me, I'm very glad about it.”

 
 
 
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안녕~~~😊🤗✌️

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Many athletes talk about the difficulties of finding motivation after an Olympic season, knowing that it is three years until the next one starts. For someone who has just won two gold medals at a home Games that had been on her mind since she was 12, that task could be even harder. 

“An athlete’s goal is an Olympic gold medal and I've got a gold medal so now I think I just need to keep trying my best,” Choi said.

WCST USA Choi Minjeong (KOR)2018©International Skatig Union (ISU) 1060097362

2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

However, the Seoul resident is already aiming for multiple gold medals at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. She was penalized for interference in the 500m final in PyeongChang and crashed in the 1000m final, having to settle for fourth place, and she is looking forward to having another go in just over three years’ time. The new year's resolution is clear:

“I hope to become a stronger skater. I hope that every year I can improve and I’ve already started to train for the Beijing Olympics. It’s still a long time but I’m always trying to think about it.

“I’m ready for Beijing and for this season’s World Championships (in March in Sofia, Bulgaria). Honestly, I’m only expecting good results, because my stress is different to last year. My mind and thoughts are always to aim to become the best.

“It will be a little bit different (not having the pressure as a home favorite) and I got a lot of Olympic experience at PyeongChang so I’ve learned and will be stronger mentally. I think and hope that I will be a little bit better in Beijing.”

After three World Cup stops, she has already bagged three gold medals, three silvers and one bronze, winning the 1500m (2) and finishing second in both the 3000m Relay and the 2000m Mixed Relay in Almaty, Kazakhstan last weekend. She tops the Overall 1500m ranking and is currently the world's Overall No.2, behind 1000m leader Suzanne Schulting (NED). The top duo, who look to be the two fighting for the Overall World title this season, skated it out on the last leg of a dramatic 3000m Relay final in Almaty, which sadly ended with Choi falling, having to be taken to hospital and taking the silver behind her main rival. She feels that her shape this season is getting better and better but is far from satisfied.

WSTSSC Choi Minjeong (KOR) 2017©Internatioanl Skating Union (ISU) 652487984

2017©International Skating Union (ISU)

“I need to improve all of it,” she said. “The mental and physical bit as well as the skating skills.”

Ten months have gone since she blessed her home country with two Olympic gold medals, skating to instant fame in Rep. Korea. However, the 1500m star, who won her first individual World Cup final in November 2014, will continue her push to get better with ten hours of training per day and her eyes fixed on glory at Beijing 2022. As an eventful 2018 becomes 2019 she reassures that the fame has not made her cocky – and that the hard work will continue into the new year.

“At the end of the day I don’t feel like anything has changed, I just have more presents.”

Next stop will be the ISU World Cup Short Track in Dresden (GER) from February 1 to 3. Don't miss it and join us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube to be sure to follow all the action.