South Korean Weightlifting Team Trains at MSU

Texoma is host to world-class athletes every year for the Hotter N' Hell bike race, not to mention the Tornado Alley racquetball classic and other big events.

But even still, it's still pretty special that we have a group of over two-dozen Olympic athletes and coaches calling the Falls home right now. The South Korean weightlifting team is training for the Games at Midwestern State.

Even with the Rio Olympics still nearly three months away, the team is hard at work at D.L. Ligon Coliseum. But why are they at MSU?

It all came down to an old friendship. Korean coach Sukchen Youn is old friends with the husband of MSU assistant professor, Dr. Soon-Mi Choi. He worked in the Korean Sports Council before coming to the United States with Dr. Choi.

She asked the MSU strength coach, Jake Landon, who jumped at the chance. "I didn't even have to think about that," Landon said. "Because this is not something that you get to see or get to do very often. So, once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, so we shot at it, and tried to make it happen."

"We had planned to go to Rio before the Olympics," Youn said. "But Rio now is not that good a situation. Zika virus, and just very not safe. So that's why we wanted to bring the teams here."

Coach Youn actually went a step further, saying that for the safety of all of its athletes, he believes the South Korean government should boycott or push to have the games moved from Brazil.

"For the whole team, not just this team, we worry about it a lot," he said. "So hopefully, the government is going to boycott, but who knows?"

Until then, he's keeping his team here in Texas, where they can focus more on their preparation and performance in the games.

One athlete who is eager to focus on the games is Jinhee Yoon. She was the silver medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 43 kilogram weight class, lifting a total of 213 kilos, or almost 470 pounds.

Since Beijing, she has married and had two kids. Now, both she and her husband -- also a weightlifter -- are training for the games, inspired by their children.

"We get a lot of encouragement and power from the kids," Yoon said. "It's really hard to separate, stay without the family. But mostly, I can get more energy and inspiration from them."

And having these athletes here is town is great for MSU's athletes and coaches, who get to watch and learn from these true top-level performers.
 
"We can pick their brain a little bit," Landon said. "Just see how they warm up, how they do their different techniques, and just kinda see how their culture's like. You know, what they do when they train, in-between sets. Just little things like that can help us do some things with our athletes."

The team, which is made up of 19 athletes and six coaches and support staff, will be training at MSU for about the next two weeks.

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