Korea box on in Olympic K2 debut

Korea’s decision to have a K1 200 team in Rio came late, but Minkyu Choi and Gwanghee Cho are not complaining.

In a country where competitive sprint canoeing is starting to develop, both Choi and Cho are excited to be representing Korea at an Olympics.

Cho had already qualified for the K1, but up until a few months ago he and Choi had rarely set foot in a boat together.

“We’ve been paddling together for about four months,” Choi said.

“Last year Gwanghee qualified at the World Championships, but then our Korean Government wanted to have one more selection in Korea.

“It was decided the first and second guy in the K1 would come here for the K2, so here we are.”

Given their lack of preparation, the Koreans were satisfied with their result, making the B final.

“This is the third time for us at an international level competition, so for us it is not perfect,” Choi said.

“We just try and get better every time. But there is a big difference between the front people and us.”

Cho was initially more interested in boxing as a career, but was convinced by friends to give canoeing a go.

Choi was introduced to the sport at school, but it wasn’t love at first sight.

“My high school teacher told me just to give it a try, but it was winter so it was not fun,” he recalled.

“But I decided to keep on going. Canoeing is not very popular in Korea, but every year we are improving.

“We won a medal in Asia, so people are looking at us, and they research what is canoe.

“But canoe is not only racing in Korea, on holidays people go canoeing, so it is getting more popular.”

K2 200 is likely to be replaced by C1 women’s 200 metres, to balance gender equity, meaning Cho and Choi’s Olympic career is likely to be short lived.

“I would like to keep going in K2, but I have heard the race won’t be in Tokyo,” Cho said.

“We have other options though, so I will keep on going to represent my country.”

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