Future is bright for Korean moguls skiers and their coach
The Republic of Korea’s moguls skiers may not have won any medals at Pyeongchang 2018, but for them, and their coach Toby Dawson, the Games have represented an important chapter.
The 38-year-old American says he is extremely proud of his skiers, and believes their efforts in PyeongChang can play a major part in building the future of freestyle skiing in the host country.
“The point for me coming over here was not only to produce a medal and to get these athletes to World Cup status, but also start a grassroots programme," says Dawson. “That's the legacy I would like to leave.”
The Winter Games also marked an important chapter in Dawson's remarkable personal story. He was born in the city of Busan in the Republic of Korea, but at the age of three, he was separated from his mother in a busy marketplace. Unable to find his parents, the police sent him to an orphanage where he was adopted by two American ski instructors from Vail, Colorado.
His first taste of skiing was whizzing down a mountain slope tucked inside his adoptive father's backpack. Soon he was given a pair of skis and was hooked. He eventually took up freestyle skiing, finished fifth on his World Cup debut at 20 and won his first world championship medal four years later.
But it was his bronze in moguls at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics that made him a hero in the Republic of Korea. Despite his American passport, Dawson was treated as one the country's own.
He also had the opportunity to find his biological parents, something his adoptive mother had hoped for. “She was always secretly rooting for me to make it to the Olympics because she thought that would be the platform for me to be actually reunited with my biological parents. I guess that motherly intuition is correct,” he explains.
The Republic of Korea's ministry of tourism discovered likely genetic matches for his biological parents and when Dawson sent his blood samples, they found his biological father Kim Jae-soo.
In February 2007 Dawson was reunited with his biological father. “It was hard. It was very surreal,” recalls Dawson. “I was like wow, this is like looking into a mirror for when I am much, much older.”
A few years later he met his biological mother for the first time, and now enjoys a good relationship with both parents as well as his biological brother. “I have just added to my family really,” he says matter-of-factly.
Dawson was a member of the bid team for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and later agreed to coach the host country’s moguls team. Under his guidance, three men and two women qualified for the finals at PyeongChang 2018, though none made it onto the podium. However, he believes strong foundations have now been laid for the Republic of Korea’s moguls contingent to be in medal contention at future Winter Games.
We probably won't see a good surge for another two or three Olympic cycles and at that point we are hopefully going to be putting together a strong Korean contingent that will go on for a long time.Toby Dawson Republic of Korea