The thin raindrops became quite thick. I even felt the chill at the drop in temperature (11 degrees). But the players didn’t care. Taking over the baton with the sound of ‘bang’, I used my feet as hard as I could and rolled the wheel hard. Most of them belonged to one team, but never played as ‘one team’. However, on this day, they became one and broke down the boundaries.
#WeThe15 On the 25th, the main stadium of Mir Stadium in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, where the 2023 KBS Olympic Games took place. Athletes with different disabilities came together tightly for the goal of winning. In contrast to general competitions for the disabled, which are held by type and grade, this competition was held in a way that 4 (disabled) + 1 (non-disabled) people worked together to complete the 800m race. As a 4×200 mixed relay event, it was the first competition to be attempted.
On this day, runners 1 and 3 were composed of players with encephalopathy, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and hearing impairments, and runners 2 were played by visually impaired players. The visually impaired players all wore eye patches and ran with a non-disabled guide runner. The final four runners were run by wheelchair runners. Each team included one female player. The Korea Sports Association for the Disabled organized a unique event like this in cooperation with the broadcasting company (KBS) to improve disability awareness and build an integrated society on the occasion of Persons with Disabilities Day on the 20th.
Eight teams participated and were divided into three groups for the preliminaries, and the team with the best record among the first and second place teams in each group advanced to the finals. During the preliminaries, an unfortunate situation occurred. Baek Gwang-young, who participated as the first runner of the Busan team in Group 3 of the preliminaries, limped from the start due to an injured leg. He sprained his leg while practicing right before the competition, and there were no replacements. Baek Kwang-young finished the 200m while limping and passed the baton to the second runner to receive applause. There was also an incident where Team K, which consisted of only national team players, was eliminated from the preliminaries.
The finals were fiercely contested. Gong Hyeok-jun (KBS Team), the silver medalist in the men’s 200m track and field event at the Deaflympics (Olympic for the Deaf) held in Brazil last year, drew the audience’s admiration with his tremendous sprinting skills. The championship was won by the Gyeongsangbuk-do team (1:51:18), who showed perfect breathing from the preliminaries. He received a medal and a prize money of 10 million won. Jung Jun-su, who was the third runner in Gyeongbuk, said, “I didn’t want to lose, but I really wanted to win because of the prize money.”
Park Se-kyung, who was the first runner in Gyeongsangbuk-do, said, “It was my first experience playing with several players, and it was very fun. He believed in the players behind him and thought that he should not be disqualified.” Yoo Byeong-hoon, a national wheelchair track and field athlete who was the last runner in Gyeongbuk, said, “It was personally meaningful that it even aired. I enjoyed it, and I am happy to have won the first championship title,” he said. “There was a part where we could understand each other through this tournament,스포츠토토 and it was a new stimulus. He is set to participate in the Paris Athletics World Championships in July and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September.
The second place was the KBS team (1:55:85), and the third place was the Daejeon team (1:56:34). The race was so close that the difference between 2nd and 3rd place was only 0.49 seconds. Yoon Gyeong-chan, the national wheelchair athlete who participated as a KBS team, expressed his determination to fight, saying, “I lost in the relay race, but I will never lose in the individual event.” 4th place was the Ulsan team (2:01:53).
In particular, in this event, a non-disabled person participated as a guide runner for visually impaired players, adding to the meaning of ‘matching’. Lim Jun-beom, who was the second runner in Gyeongsangbuk-do, ran 200m together with Choi Seong-yeol, who is actually active as a college track and field athlete. Lim Jun-beom said, “It was the first time I ran with my eyes completely covered, but thanks to Seong-yeol Choi, I ran without any burden. He tuned me in,” he said. Seongyeol Choi said, “It was my first time as a guide runner, so it was a special experience. I want to do it again next time the opportunity arises.” Singer Sean participated as a guide runner for Seon Ji-won, the second runner-up on the KBS team, drawing attention.
Ahn Jeom-ho, coach of the track and field team of the Gyeongbuk Sports Association for the Disabled, said, “I was convinced that runners 3 and 4 were strong, so even if runners 1 and 2 were 20 to 30 meters apart from the opposing team, they could win. The players also took their mind comfortably during the course of the game, which led to good results,” he said of his victory. He then expressed his wish, saying, “There are no opportunities for people with different types of disabilities to be together, but I hope this will serve as an opportunity to activate athletics for the disabled.”