When Yang Jae-rim (Korean Painting, 4) descended the racecourse in the late morning of March 16, a giant scoreboard over her shoulder pronounced her time as 3 minute 5.90 seconds, settling for 4th place in the “Women’s Giant Slalom for the visually impaired” at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games. Tears ran down her face as she skied her way back to her team.
Yang is a member of the national team for Alpine Skiing in the 2014 Paralympics Games. She was born with a visual handicap due to retinopathy of prematurity. Over 10 surgeries during her 25-year-life gave her a slight sight in the right eye, still not enough to see the world to fullest. Despite the physical obstacles, she loved outdoor activities since she was a little girl.
“I am a very active person, but there can be several setbacks when I want to engage in outdoor activities such as driving,” Yang said. “What I love most about skiing is that I can steer something forward without help from others.”
Yang entered Ewha in 2009 as a Korean Painting major, putting aside her favorite sport, skiing for a while. In 2010, Korea Adaptive Ski Association offered her to be part of the national team for the Paralympic Games, acknowledging Yang’s potential in skiing. However, Yang ran into her parents’ opposition. Her parents believed skiing would deteriorate her vision due to the reflection of light on the ski slope and wanted her to focus on painting.
“I was so excited about being able to ski again that I finally persuaded my parents into letting me join the national team,” Yang said. “Strenuous days followed as I attended classes during the day and worked out in the evening. I could not have withstood it if it were not for my parents who supported me so much.”
Since Yang used to ski as a hobby up until then, she began her training in earnest since 2010. She also tried to improve her game sense by entering actual competitions every year. Yang scored 1st place in the 2012 Netherlands IPC-AS. Although she always tried her best at games, Yang made up a different attitude when the Paralympic Games was close at hand.
“The Paralympic Games are different from other competitions in that so many people come to watch and root for the players,” Yang said. “There is also the particular Olympic atmosphere I cannot describe in words, but I can say without doubt that it made me extremely nervous.”
During the first game, “Women’s Slalom for the visually impaired,” Yang was so nervous that she tumbled. She tried to forget about the mistake of the first game and focus on the next one, “Women’s Giant Slalom for the visually impaired,” but it was difficult to completely forget about the frustration. On her last game, “Women’s Giant Slalom for the visually impaired,” she fell behind 3.75 seconds from scoring 3rd place. Yang recorded 3 minute 5.90 seconds.
“I could have skied faster during the Giant Slalom, but I was afraid I would tumble again,” Yang said. “Since Paralympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all athletes, the moment I tumbled followed me around for a while.”
Ski plays an important role in Yang’s painting as well. Before she decided to become a professional skier, Yang used to paint in various themes that popped into her mind from now and then. However, for the recent few months, her paintings depict herself skiing downhill.
Yang always enjoyed watching paintings that expressed movements. Yet it was only recently that she began to draw sport scenes. She wanted to show others how interesting sports for the disabled can be through her paintings. Since people’s interest in the Paralympic Games was very insignificant. Although she is starting with paintings of herself skiing, she plans to expand her themes to other sports as well.
Yang has a dream of having her own exhibition about the sports for the disabled.
“I want to paint the Paralympics for the people to realize what it is about,” Yang said.