After having qualified for the US Team, Thomas Hong will be returning to the country of his birth to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Hong, a Korean-American short-track speedskater, grew up in Maryland after immigrating to the United States at the age of four.

Having been nearly born on the ice, his mother went into labor while at the ice rink with his sister, Hong has been dedicated to speedskating ever since. He first began skating at the age of five and has never looked back.

While studying in Maryland during school months, he spent his summer’s in South Korea with his father.

During that time he would spend long hours training in speedskating. It is this rigorous training schedule to which he attributes his first qualifying for the 2014 Olympic Trials and the World Junior Championships.

The experience begins

His world competition experience started in 2012 with the first Winter Youth Olympic Games and continued on through World Cups, World Junior Championships, and now the US Olympic Speedskating Team. He is the youngest US Olympic speedskater.

Short-track speedskating is a competitive sport where multiple skaters, normally between four and six, take to an oval ice track a little over 360 feet long. About the same size as an international ice hockey rink, the track itself measures about 200' x 98‘.

Started out of necessity at speedskating events where mass starts were required, the sport is relatively new to international competition.The short-track was only a demonstration sport in the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but was then upgraded to a full Olympic sport in 1992. Since it's addition in '92, the program has expanded from four events to eight events in 2002.

The same events are held for both the men and the women, lengths start with 500m and include 1000m, 1500m, and 3000m, with a relay of 5000m for men in 3000m for women.

Training for the Winter Olympics

In order to take his professional speedskating career to the next level, Hong has set aside his studies at the University of Maryland in order to concentrate on training.

Realizing his training at the Potomac Speed Skating Club in Maryland, would not be enough, he moved to Salt Lake City to take advantage of the same training track other professional competitors are using, the Utah Olympic Oval.

Given the low national exposure of the speedskating sport, likely due to its relatively new status as an Olympic competition, funding has been difficult. He has however been able to secure sponsors KT Tape and Shaklee. The sponsorships allow him to train full-time and are the reason he is able to compete in Pyeongchang this year.

Best of luck to Thomas Hong, hope to see you on the podium this year!