Korea, for the first time in Paralympics history, has secured a ticket to the Para ice hockey semi-finals. Although the Korean team was defeated by the U.S. on Tuesday, its consecutive victories against Japan and the Czech Republic were enough to classify the team as a runner-up to the semi-finals. The team's star forward Jung Seung-hwan scored both goals against the Czech Republic, making an impressive goal just 13 seconds into sudden death.
Known as the 'Messi on Ice' for his noticeable speed, Jung lead the South Korean team to the silver medal at the 2012 Para Ice Hockey World Championships, and gold at the 2013 Para Ice Hockey Qualification Tournament in Italy.
With such track record, the Korean sledge hockey player has been in the global spotlight even before the PyeongChang Paralympics started.
He didn't set out to be an athlete from the start however. He only started sledge hockey when he was in college after being mesmerized by the sportwhen he tagged along to watch a game with his friend.
His family recounted their initial skepticism when he started playing.
"I was sort of against it at first because we were all worried about him getting injured. We didn't know much about the sport either."
Jung lost his right leg when he was 5 when construction pipes collapsed onto his leg. His mum still vividly remembers the weekend of the accident.
"It really broke my heart. We ran around frantically to four different hospitals, but in the end they all said the leg needed to be amputated."
But she says how she treated Jung after the incident was probably what fortified his character and made the individual he is today.
"I cried everyday in the inside, but I never showed it. I treated him exactly the way I treated his siblings and didn't give him any special treatment."
It was only after the star player's recent post on social media, an honest account of his childhood when he thought there was no hope, no future that his family realized how much he actually went through internally.
"He was always a bright person. He didn't want us to worry so he never showed signs of being stressed out due to his disability."
Although Jung is the youngest out of three siblings, his sister says he is more of a big brother for her, someone she can rely on all the time.
"He's a way stronger person than we had ever imagined, so I just hope he keeps doing what he's doing and has good influence in society."
Jung Seung-hwan said in an interview on the opening day of the games that a bigger goal than winning a medal is to give hope to those who feel at a disadvantage. Regardless of the final outcome of this year's games, his fans and family have no doubts he has already achieved that goal.
Lee Jeong-yeon, Arirang News