Especially during the winter, skiing is a sport that is widely enjoyed worldwide. As a skier myself, I find it nerve racking to compete with tons of people who I’ve never seen perform. Every winter at YongPyong Resort, there is a competition in which all international skiers participate and test their skills on the gates (alternating pairs of red and blue poles that a skier must pass). This year’s “38th YongPyong International Ski Festival” opened its doors to everyone of all ages, making it the only ski festival in Korea for skiers of all nationalities.
This year, I joined the 2019-2020 season’s competition, marking my sixth consecutive year. This race is very unique as it’s held especially to give foreign skiers living in Korea a chance to compete in a friendly race and enjoy a culture-themed party afterwards. This event was first held in 1983 to promote skiing as well as sportsmanship among foreigners temporarily living in Korea. Every year approximately 400 participants from more than 30 countries compete, making it a big day on which people of all nationalities can interact with each other and enjoy an activity with which they are all familiar. The competition is open to people of all ages, including parents, children, and grandparents. Basically, everyone can compete, but they are divided into different age divisions.
[This is the poster for this year's YongPyong International Ski Festival.
Prior to this festival, I had competed in many different sports events, but I have to say that this one my favorite by far, as I consider it a patriotic act for my country and a fun event where I make new friends who share the same passion as myself. I think participation in this event is patriotic because you represent your country along with many other skiers from countries with which you are unfamiliar. Usually, competitions are held during the day and a small awards ceremony is held afterwards, but this event is different, in addition to being filled with excitement and comradery.
The night before the competition, there is an opening ceremony where you can confirm your registration, receive your bib (number under which you will compete), and enjoy a couple hours talking to your competitors. This ceremony makes the race a friendlier one as you get to know many people competing in your category with you. At the opening, there are flags representing all the nationalities as well as snacks from those countries. When the day of the competition arrives, the mood is completely different as everyone is dressed in their ski attire and ready to hit the slopes and do their warmup before the race officially begins. At this point, I was very nervous yet excited because everyone was such good skiers. Soon after the youngest competitors started, the next to go was my division which was the senior division consisting of teens aged from 14 to 18. I was the last one to go down the slope, pass the gates, and cross the finish line officially closing the races of my division.
|[This is at the award ceremony at the after party. Photo Courtesy of Clare Sohn. ]|
After all the races are completed an after party is held in the evening which is one of the unique aspects of this festival. There is a gala dinner party to celebrate everyone's accomplishments which ends with the award ceremony. During this time, you sit with the competitors of your nationality to show your patriotism and pride in your country which are also on full display during the award ceremony. Every time someone wins an award or “places”, everybody of that person’s nationality stands up and either cheers while waving flags or helps raise the winner above their heads and up onto the podium. This event really demonstrates the respect that the skiers of different nationalities have for each other even though they may compete intensely at events such as the Olympics. Over the years, I definitely think that the competition has been effectively fulfilling its purpose, and I hope to continue competing in this event for many years to come.
Seoul Foreign School
Clare Sohn firstname.lastname@example.org
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