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Korean-Born Speed Skater Kim Hyo-Jung Seeks Olympic Gold for Team USA


Short track speed skater Kim Hyo-jung came to the United States just two years ago from her native South Korea. In that time she has blossomed from a homesick young girl who spoke no English to one of the top medal hopes for the U.S. team at the Turin Olympics.

Kim Hyo-jung left her country and family in January of 2004 to move to the United States and follow her Olympic dream.

Now at the age of 17, she is in Italy for the 2006 Turin Olympics and is on the verge of seeing her dreams come true.

"Yeah, finally we are here," she said. "So far it was amazing for me. Like every day was a really good experience. And we are still training hard until the start of competition. And we are all like excited and honored and can not wait to compete."

Kim holds the American record for the 1,000 meters (1:33.593) and is the 2005 U.S. Short Track National Champion after placing first in all six events at the National championships in Marquette, Michigan. She was surprised to do as well as she did.

"Kind of, because I had a little injury when I was in Marquette when we were doing the Olympic trials," she explained. "So I was kind of afraid and nervous, but I did well so I was kind of surprised."

After her stellar performance at the championships, which also doubled as the Olympic trials, Kim will be spending a lot of time on the Olympic ice.

"I will be busy," admitted Kim Hyo-jung. "I have four events: 1,500 [meters], 500 [meters], 1,000 meters and relays."

It was not long after she moved to America that Kim's new teammates gave her the nickname Halie.

"Hyo-jung is my real name, so you can call me Hyo-jung but I know it is hard to pronounce for Americans," she explained. "So you can call me Halie, too."

Halie was still living in South Korea during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. It was during those Olympics that current teammate Apollo Anton Ohno earned the antipathy of South Koreans. He won the 1,500-meter gold medal after South Korea's Kim Dong-sung was disqualified for interference.

"People really do not like Apollo in Korea," explained Kim. "But every Korean skater knows that Apollo is a great skater and strong skater."

Halie Kim does not know whether she will be an inspiration to others, but she has definite ideas on how she would like to be seen by her fans.

"I want people to see me as young skater but Christian, like strong Christian to be like really good athlete," she said. "And I would like to see medals - gold medals - but I said it during competition, it is not my choice, it has got to be God's choice anyway. So I will just be praying and do my best."

Halie Kim is still nursing that Achilles injury, although she says it is getting better. If the short track speed skater is able to compete at her full potential, there is a good chance you will see her on the Olympic podium.

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