“Up to the top, falling down, falling down… It’s all a process towards a dream.”
When I asked Kim Hwang-tae (46, Incheon Sports Association for the Disabled), a national representative of the ‘triathlon triathlon’ without both arms, about her introductory cycling process, she answered with a smile. He said that Joo Jung-hoon (SK Eco Plant), the first bronze medalist in Tokyo Paralympic Taekwondo, was the senior he respected the most. “On the first day I entered the athletes’ village, a senior asked me if I would like to lift my luggage, but both arms were missing. My handicap was nothing. Seeing Hwang Tae-hyung in training, I felt really great.”
On the 17th, I met the legendary ‘Kim Hwang-tae’ at the swimming pool of the Icheon National Paralympic Village in Gyeonggi-do. After going back and forth through the 50m lane 4 times with a full body kick, he changed his shoes in harmony with his wife Kim Jin-hee (46), a ‘handler (equipment exchange, start assistant)’, changed his shoes, climbed the cycle at the speed of light, and held his teeth together for 5 minutes. I pedaled non-stop. After six sets of this death course, he said, the long morning routine was over.
▶Strength to rise whenever you fall
He is an indomitable iron man who received the 2nd prize from the command for ’30-minute sit-ups’ of the 789th Marine Corps. In August 2000, after losing both arms in an electric shock accident while working, he started running in January 2002, just a year and a half later. Since then, he has completed 70 full marathon courses, and 17 of them are ‘Marathoner’s Romance’ Sub 3 (42.195 km in 3 hours). His first complete course was the Chuncheon Marathon in February 2003, 4 hours and 6 minutes. And after achieving his first serve 3 at the 2005 Dong-A Marathon, two years later, he set a personal best of ‘2 hours 55 minutes 19 seconds’ at the 2015 Dong-A Marathon. He ran 15 km every day and 500 km a month without stopping.
He did not dream of the Paralympic Games as a ‘triathlon’ from the beginning. He started dreaming of the Paralympic Games around 2015, and was selected as a Nordic skier ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, but suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in his knee the following year and could not achieve his goal. He added, “It felt like something was disappearing right before my eyes, the Paralympic Games became desperate.” While he was undergoing rehabilitation, a scout offer came from Taekwondo, which was adopted as the first official sport of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He was outstanding enough to win the silver medal at the 2021 World Championships. However, ahead of the Paralympic Games, his sport class was again excluded. Many times his dreams were broken, but he did not. Oh Sang-mi, who is also a member of the Incheon Paralympic Sports Association and a bronze medalist at the Deflimk Games, recommended ‘triathlon’. Lee Do-yeon, who met at the Icheon National Training Center, willingly passed on customized bicycle information. Hwangtae Kim”
Moon Jae-hong, the manager of the ‘triathlon triathlon’ of the Sports Promotion Department of the Korean Disabled Sports Association, recalled his first meeting with Kim Hwang-tae. “They asked me to borrow a bicycle. To be honest, ‘How can I do it when I don’t have both arms?’ I didn’t expect it. I heard a story about a national taekwondo athlete riding a bicycle very hard at the athletes’ village.” Kim Hwang-tae, whom I met again, had become a ‘player’ who could change gears freely. He made his first appearance at the 2019 Para Triathlon Asian Championships and proved his potential by coming in second place. At the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Triathlon, his class disappeared and he was again banned from participating, but he did not give up. After two consecutive victories at the National Sports Festival last year, Kim Hwang-tae’s sport class was included in the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games and triathlon. The dream came alive again. Manager Moon said, “This opportunity was created by the player himself who sold Hanwell without giving up until the end.”
There are six sport classes for triathlon events for the disabled: PTWC (wheelchair class), PTS2-5 (physical disability, the smaller the number, the more severe the disability), and PTVI (visual impairment). Kim Hwang-tae’s sport grade is PTS3. He is the only player in the world with amputation of both arms. Manager Moon said, “The International Federation is watching Hwang-tae Kim with great interest.” “There are many people with amputations around the world, but there are concerns about how to spread swimming, cycling스포츠토토, and running to them. Hwang-tae Kim is a good example and can be a role model,” he said. “More people will see this athlete and grow their Paralympic dreams,” he said.
▶”Anyone can do it as long as they have the will”
If a person with a disability with both arms is doing triathlon, the first question that comes to mind is ‘How about swimming and cycling?’ Swimming, where strokes and breathing are absolute, is Kim Hwang-tae’s ‘weakest sport’. You have to rely solely on kicks. In open water, I drink a lot of water. The 50m record is between 50 seconds and 1 minute. In order to compensate for the weak sports, the Icheon National Training Center cuts 3500m of water a day. Jang Yoo-jeong, a triathlon expert coach, said, “In open water, you have to look at the floating buoy, but it is difficult to keep an eye on the front due to the type of obstacle. It is the most difficult event, but we will supplement it by increasing the amount of training.” The ‘seconds’ lost in swimming must be made up for in cycling and running. Cycle wears a prosthetic hand made from the shoulder to the hand. The share of the prosthetic hand is about 10%, and more than 80% depends on the core balance and leg strength that have been fully trained. The product quality of bicycles is, of course, a competitive advantage. Manager Moon said, “If most foreign players ride ‘supercars’, Kim Hwang-tae has been competing in regular cars and has been ranked 5th and 6th in the world.” Ahead of the World Series tournament to be held in Yokohama, Japan on the 13th of next month, WIAWIS, a domestic carbon brand, has decided to produce and support customized bicycles for Hwangtae Kim only. Kim Hwang-tae, who is ranked 12th in the world but is in the top 3 in the world in both cycling and running, smiled broadly, saying, “I have hope to shorten my cycling record further. It motivates me.” We are aiming for a top 4 or better finish at the Yokohama tournament and a top 10 ranking.
As of last year’s National Para Games, there were only about 15 triathletes in Korea, and he encouraged his colleagues and seniors and juniors to participate. He said, “Third man is a demonic event that cannot be escaped once it is entered,” and “Anyone can do it if they have the will.” Regarding the charm of the three types of ironmen who cannot give up even when it is difficult, he said, “It is the exhilarating sense of achievement and joy when passing the finish line after overcoming extreme pain.” The ‘handler’ wife, Kim Jin-hee, nodded. Their competitiveness is ‘one heart and one body’ eye breathing. Coach Jang explained, “The three triathlons are called four events, including transition between swimming, cycling, and running.” The hand of the wife who became her husband’s alter ego for 24 years is faster than the ‘competitor’. Coach Jang hinted, “The record of wearing a prosthetic arm, wearing shoes, and transferring to a cycle is shorter than that of athletes who do it alone.” The wife, who is determined to go to every tournament with the same national team heart, has bruises all over her arms, and prays ‘just to be safe’ until her husband comes to the finish line. It’s something I’m passionate about,” he laughed. .
What is sport to ‘Iron Man’ Kim Hwang-tae, who dreams of the Paris Paralympic Games? “It’s life, it’s a dream, it’s a goal, it’s everything,” he said. “I want to be remembered as an athlete who sets an example for disabled athletes and society, and as an athlete who never gives up,” said the ironman on the 20th ‘Disabled Person’s Day’. On the occasion of the anniversary, they shouted ‘Out of the house!’ to fellow disabled people who were still staying at home. “I always say, come out unconditionally. Exercising together improves the quality of life and brightens it. If you don’t come out, nothing will change.”