Thomas Hong returns home to South Korea

PARK CITY, Utah (Nexstar) – The distance between South Korea and the west coast of the United States is about 6,000 miles. That means when US athletes travel to PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics, they’ll be traveling very far from their family and friends.
But maybe not all of them.

Thomas Hong is a speed skater. A young one, he just turned 20 in July.

“For me being young, not everyone knows exactly my capabilities and stuff like that. So there’s definitely some underestimating there, I can sneak up on people.” Thomas Hong

He almost did that a few years ago. Hong was the youngest competitor at the 2014 Olympic Championships at age 17. He’s also a 6 time national champion in his age group.

“Everyone’s doing the same thing. What can you do to be better than your competitors? Learning who you are in the sport.” Thomas Hong

It’s been an ongoing lesson since he was five years old. That’s when Thomas Hong began skating. His family had just moved to the US from South Korea.

“And for some reason we knew somebody in the area and they happened to be doing short track speed skating. And it was just another way for us to get to know the community.” Thomas Hong

That was in Maryland. Hong has since moved to Utah to train full time. Obviously he’s now thinking about South Korea in February.

His dad still lives there.

“Just having familiar eyes watching me. I think that’ll definitely give me an extra spark.” Thomas Hong

First, Thomas Hong has to qualify for Team USA. The Olympic trials for short track speed skating are in mid-December in Salt Lake City.

How skiers train in the summer

Going for the Gold! Before they hit the slopes, Olympic skiers spend lots of time in the pool. Check out how they practice their sweet moves in the summertime!