The Republic of Korea will participate in the Invictus Games for the first time in 2021. Yoon Kun Kim is proud to fulfill this awareness. And it also gives him a considerable sense of responsibility. Because as team captain of the Korean team, he wants himself and his teammates to perform well.
By Edward Swier
It was also a special winter and spring for the Korean delegation to the Invictus Games. Like the rest of the world, the Republic of Korea was affected by the corona outbreak, the country was among the first nations hit. As a result, preparations for the Invictus Games ended early on. Yoon Kun Kim: “Before the outbreak of Covid-19, we jointly followed sports-specific and physical training. When the training facilities were closed, we couldn’t do professional training anymore and we could only work on our condition individually. Since then, we have also been following online training courses. Because the situation in Korea is already getting much better, we are all very much looking forward to the reopening of our training facilities”.
Now that the Invictus Games have been pushed back a year, Korea will most likely make some changes to the initially composed team of 12 participants. “We have our own annual sport events for disabled veterans: the National Disabled Veterans Sports Festival and the Korea Disabled Veterans Sports Council Championships. There, athletes will again be selected for the Invictus Games next year”.
Anyway, Kim’s here. He’s designated team captain. For himself, participating in the international event is quite a victory. As a Marine, Kim took part in the Vietnam War. He lost both legs. As a result, he suffered from mental pain for a long time, he had thoughts of suicide. The images from that time still come back in his dreams, but Kim did win the mental battle. “Thanks to sport. Being active, building fitness, also helps me get emotionally healthier.”
It was initially a big surprise for him that he was selected for the Invictus Games at all. Kim actually didn’t know the event very well. “Before I was selected as a member of Team Korea for the Invictus Games, I had only heard about it through the media, I wasn’t really into it. But, as I gradually came to understand the concept better, I became interested in all aspects of the event. I can see that all the participants in the Invictus Games are very committed and determined, that they have an invincible spirit. I am therefore very proud to be part of the Invictus Games family. It’s going to be Korea’s first participation, which is a huge responsibility for us”.
And for Kim in particular, because he’s a team captain. “I can and will sacrifice myself for my team. As team captain you have the task to lead the team in a good way, to create a good atmosphere and to help achieve the goal of the team. I also try to take the initiative in the mutual communication. That is quite difficult sometimes. Because our team consists only of participants in individual sports, we have little chance to train together in one place. I do try to achieve that and we all get together as often as possible. In any case I keep a lot of contact with everyone, so that we can be sure that we are all well prepared for the upcoming Invictus Games, and that we all have that one goal in mind”.
The twelve Korean athletes will participate in five individual sports disciplines: athletics, swimming, indoor rowing, cycling and archery. “Unfortunately, we do not participate in team sports.” It may be a target for next time. There is a lot of attention for sports for veterans with disabilities. “The MPVA (Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs) supports war veterans and has a keen interest in Korean participation in the Invictus Games.” We are working hard on budget support.
Kim: “We also have a separate sports organisation for veterans with disabilities. Rehabilitation sports are promoted and we have our own training centre. Most of us also started this way. They started playing sports during their rehabilitation and are now active in those sports. Some of us have also been selected for the national para-team of Korea in their specific sport”.
“Because this is our first participation, we haven’t received enough national attention yet. However, we expect our story to be better heard over time. As soon as the media will discuss our first participation in the Invictus Games, many more people will certainly pay attention to us and our sporting goal. By participating in the Invictus Games, as a war veteran I want to once again feel the pride of coming out for my country”.