The distance between South Korea and the west coast of the United States is about six-thousand miles.
That means when U.S. athletes travel to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics, they’ll be traveling very far from their friends and families.
But maybe not all of them.
Thomas Hong is a speed skater. A young one. He just turned 20 in July.
“For me being young, not everyone knows exactly my capabilities and stuff like that. So there’s definitely some underestimating there, I can sneak up on people,” Thomas Hong said.
He almost did that a few years ago. Hong was the youngest competitor at the 2014 Olympic trials at 17. And he finished 11th overall.
Since then, he’s won silver at the World Junior Championships. And he’s also a six-time national champion in his age group.
Hong said, “Everyone’s doing the same thing. What can you do to be better than your competitors? Learning who you are in the sport.”
It’s been an ongoing lesson since he was five years old. That’s when Thomas Hong began skating. His family had just moved to the U.S. from South Korea.
“And for some reason, we knew somebody in the area and they happened to be doing short track speed skating. And it was just another way for us to get to know the community,” said Hong.
That was in Maryland. Hong has since moved to Utah to train full-time.
And obviously, he’s now thinking about South Korea in February. His dad still lives there.
“Just having familiar eyes watching me. I think that’ll definitely give me an extra spark,” Hong said.
First, Thomas Hong has to qualify for Team USA.
The Olympic trials for short track speed skating are in mid-December in Salt Lake City.
See what Thomas Hong says he loves about speed skating.