One of those 21 proud girls in national team uniform is Park Da-yeon (Mathematics Education, 3) whose back is emblazoned with the number four. Park, one of the three attackers on the team, is usually positioned on the wing and occasionally plays in the center position.
Her passion for ice hockey started when she was eight years old, when she first visited an ice hockey rink with her athletic father. Since her first game with her father and his ice hockey club members, she fell in love with this rather aggressive sport.
“I liked the sound the puck makes on the ice—shak shak,” Park said with a big smile spreading across her face. The gear can weigh up to 10 kilograms but she skates around the big rink as if it weighs nothing at all.
Despite her passion for ice hockey, she had to put it aside until she entered college. Many players her age chose ice hockey as a career when they were as young as junior high school students or even younger but Park’s parents thought her education was more important. After Park got accepted to Ewha, she tried out for the national team and obtained the proud back number she now owns.
Currently, there is no professional women’s ice hockey team in Korea. It is a bit of a stretch to try to become a female professional ice hockey player, since, except for the national team’s six month recruitment period, there is no professional commercial women’s team; in fact, there is no league for women’s ice hockey in Korea at all.
“The situation in Korea for women’s ice hockey is not so prosperous. I can enjoy ice hockey for now, but this cannot be my ultimate career,” Park said.
Beyond hockey, Park also devotes her passion to mathematics with the hope of becoming a teacher one day. Balancing school and national team practice is challenging for Park. The Teacher Certification Examination, which Park has to take in order to become a teacher, is one of the toughest qualification tests in Korea. Yet, even during the semester, she has to practice at Taereung Training Center every evening, running back and forth from school to the practice rink every day.
“When it comes to group assignments or projects, I feel sorry for my friends because it is hard to schedule the meetings and so on. My schedule is quite tight by just going to classes and practices,” said Park.
She also has to miss many school events and activities that her friends enjoy. “A friend once asked me if I wanted to go to an overnight orientation trip for the freshmen, but I couldn’t go because of the Winter Asian Games,” Park said with a disappointed look on her face.
The national team is drafted for total of six months each year during summer and winter breaks for training camps with a tough schedule. Their early mornings start with a siren bell that leads them to practice their games on the rink. The team members then lift some weights at the gym and continue practice games until late at night. Life at Taereung Training Center can be arduous but Park likes the family-like atmosphere among the teammates.
Park was mesmerized when she first received a uniform with the national flag at the inaugural ceremony of the national team for the Winter Asian Games on Jan. 29. “It was definitely overwhelming of course with a lot of pressure. I heard the Chinese and the Japanese are pretty strong. So it did worry us but we tried to give away as few points as possible,” Park said.
The national team’s wild dream was to win the bronze medal, but more realistically they wanted to give away only single digit points. The team scored their first point at the match against Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Ultimately, they lost the game but it sure was a precious point for the team.