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(Olympics) Freestyle skier looks to find birth parents through Winter Games

All Headlines 15:19 February 05, 2018

By Joo Kyung-don

HOENGSEONG, South Korea, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- While the goal of many athletes at the PyeongChang Olympics is winning medals and doing their best, freestyle skier Lee Mee-hyun eyes one more thing: finding her birth parents in South Korea.

Lee was born in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, in 1994, but she was adopted by an American family in Philadelphia one year later. Since then, she has been living as Jackie Kling, but recovered her original nationality in 2015 to compete for South Korea.

"I feel like everyone is here for the same reason because of passion," she said to Yonhap News Agency on Monday. "But one of my other goals is to possibly find my birth parents. It would help me in any way."

Lee, who will be the lone South Korean participant in slopestyle at the Pyeongchang Olympics, said she tried to search for her birth parents three years ago, but unfortunately, an official at an adoption agency who handled her adoption died and she couldn't get much information.

Lee said when she received an offer from South Korean ski officials to compete for her birth country, there was no reason to refuse it.

"When someone offers you to visit your birth country, it can lead into a whole different way of life," she said. "It could lead into anything, and it's a big opportunity. I don't know why anyone would say no."

Lee said she doesn't think South Korea had "abandoned" her.

"I wouldn't put it that way," she said. "It could've been a family situation at all. I don't feel that way."

South Korean freestyle skier Lee Mee-hyun poses for a photo at a ski resort in Hoengseong County, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

At Phoenix Snow Park in PyeongChang, the venue of all freestyle skiing events, Lee said she will try to make it into the finals. Lee is currently ranked 45th in the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup rankings. She has, however, the best World Cup result by a South Korean, with seventh-place in Seiser Alm, Italy, in January 2017.

But since then she has had mixed performances at international competitions.

"My strategy is to go all-in or fold, which means I will podium, or I will be last," she said. "That's just how my personality is and that's just who I am. Whenever I'm comfortable with my tricks for that specific course, that's what I'm going to do."

Lee said these days she is focusing on strengthening her right knee, which she injured last November. Despite her knee situation, Lee said she is ready.

"I'm able to ski," she said. ""I'm currently working on jumps because that's one of my weaker spots. Mentally, I'm 100 percent there."

Lee said she is confident of performing well at the Olympics, although she didn't compete at the test event two years ago because of a foot injury. For the Winter Games, she said fans will be able to find her special moves.

"I don't want to talk in details, but I do have a special trick," she said. "Everyone is strong in some sort of way."

For her Olympics, Lee said she is also excited to live at an Olympic Village. She and halfpipe skiing team of Jang Yu-jin and Lee Kang-bok will enter the PyeongChang Athletes' Village on Tuesday.

"I just want to take a lot of photos," she said. "It's going to be exciting."

Lee said that the national team atmosphere is great. Although there is a language barrier, she said communication between her younger teammates has been improving.

"They're like my siblings," she said. "Everyone is patient (with) each other, which is nice."

Lee said she wants to draw South Korean people into freestyle skiing, although she understands that some people perceive it as a "dangerous" sport.

"I'm sure that people's passion and interest (in freestyle skiing) is growing," she said. "And I'm hoping to help with that. I will try do it just by getting people excited to go skiing every day."

South Korean freestyle skiers Lee Mee-hyun (C), Jang Yu-jin (L) and Lee Kang-bok pose for a photo at a ski resort in Hoengseong County, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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