Hyeok Kim Does Korea Proud at 2018 Asian Games

Wed, 10/17/2018 - 10:04
2018 Asian Games
Hyeok Kim and Degas K at the 2018 Asian Games :: Photo © private

Premiering at their first ever Asian Games this year, Korean Hyeok Kim and the Hanoverian Degas K took home a silver medal as part of the Korean team and finished off a killer debut weekend with a bronze medal in the individual on an Inter I kur score of 75.705 %. 

“It was an amazing experience being on the Korean team for the first time,” said the 23-year old Kim. “We all had horses that were new to the championship so it was an exciting end to be awarded a silver for the team.”

Individually it was also very rewarding for Kim to come in third behind riders with so much more experience. His partner in crime was the 11-year old Degas K (by De Niro x Walt Disney).

“Seeing so many up and coming riders from other Asian nations was inspiring. There were many international trainers present at the Games and it was obvious that other Asian riders are taking their training very seriously. I look forward to seeing them more on the international scene," said Kim.

Training in Germany since 2017, Hyeok first travelled to Europe in 2014 searching for a horse. His trainer at that time took Kim to see a horse that was owned and trained by the Werndl Family in Aubenhausen, south Germany.

“That’s how I met Jessica and Benjamin (Wendl). After seeing how much time and effort they put into giving their horses the best care in every aspect and their dedication to be the best, it made me want to learn from them," Hyeok reminisced.

Bronze medal winner Kim with coach Werndl
The horse that Kim competed on at the Games, Degas K, is very forward thinking, and according to Kim they never argue. “He is a real fighter in the arena but like a big puppy in the stable,” Kim added.

Beginning his riding career because his father had a passion for horses, Kim says it isn’t easy to compete in dressage coming from Korea as there aren’t as many opportunities for Korean riders.

“As a competitor it is difficult to be very successful in dressage as we don’t have as much exposure to the large competitions that they have in Europe or in the U.S.,” Kim explained.

Korean dressage in particular took a big hit recently after the scandal involving Soon Sil Choi, a confidante of former president Park and mother to Korean dressage rider Yoora Chung.

The Korean Equestrian Federation had fabricated key documents and violated its own rules to cater to Choi's daughter, who was training and living in Denmark and who made the national team in 2014 to won team gold. This led to the impeachment of former President Geun Hye Park.

Kim says it was a very sad and disappointing time for the sport in Korea, and a huge set back for riders who couldn’t compete in the country for a long time.

“Unfortunately, due to the scandal, the image of our sport suffered very much in Korea. At one point, our NF could no longer host any competitions and this lasted for longer than anyone had hoped,” said Kim. “However, things are slowly yet surely improving due to endless effort by those who are devoted to the sport.”

The individual podium at the 2018 Asian
Games with Ambak, Siu and Kim
With the successes achieved at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta giving him even more incentive to follow his passion, Hyeok is now training hard for the next edition, hoping to improve his placing from bronze to silver or even gold! 

“Then, after the next Asian Games, I would like to try to qualify for the bigger championships, like the Olympics," said the modest yet ambitious rider. 

With four years until the next Asian Games Kim will definitely spend more time in Germany training, working around his study time as he completes his courses at the Department of Life Sports at Hanyang University.

“I very much look forward to going back to Aubenhausen to work with Jessi and Benjamin,” he said.

by Sarah Warne

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