LIST: 5 Korean stars who could have been Olympians

South China Morning Post

Posted at Aug 03 2021 10:00 PM

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics might be lacking live spectators this year due to the prolonged pandemic, but sports fans across the globe are still enjoying the Games and supporting their favourite athletes – even though they might not be able to cheer on the winners in person.

But did you know that five Korean would-be Olympians embarked on very different career paths instead? As we get amped up for the last week of the Olympics, meet five K-pop and K-drama stars who could have competed in the Games – and possibly even walked away with a gold medal.

Song Joong-ki: short-track speedskating

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Song Joong-ki. Photo: @historydnc/Instagram

With the success of the 2021 K-drama Vincenzo, we have been seeing Song Joong-ki everywhere … but did you know that we could have seen him in the Winter Olympics? Not only is he a skilled actor and a graduate of one of the top business schools in Korea, he can add sports to his list of talents too – specifically short-track speedskating.

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He skated for 12 years before his career unfortunately ended with an injury. But he encountered the world of speed skating again as an actor, as one of the first roles he played was that of a gold medallist speed skater in the 2009 K-Drama, Triple, where he acted alongside Min Hyo-rin.

Song Hye-kyo: figure skating

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Song Hye-kyo. Photo: @kyo1122/Instagram

In an alternate universe, Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo might have crossed paths even if they hadn’t co-starred in Descendants of the Sun. Song Hye-kyo was also a winter sports athlete, gliding gracefully around the rink as a figure skater. She trained from junior school through middle school and – who knows – could have become the “queen of figure skating” instead of “queen of K-drama” had she continued.

Park Bo-gum: swimming

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Park Bo-gum. Photo: @blossom_entertainment/Instagram

Could we have seen Record of Youth’s Park Bo-gum as the “marine boy” – so nicknamed for enlisting in the Korean navy – representing South Korea in the Olympics? The K-drama star actually used to be a swimmer up until middle school.

So Ji-sub: swimming

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So Ji-sub. Photo: @nixkorea.official/Instagram

So Ji-sub clearly has the physique of an athlete, with his broad shoulders and long, muscular arms and legs, so it’s not surprising that he was once a competitive swimmer and water polo player before he debuted as a model and actor. He swam breaststroke and competed in national-level competitions.

Kim Yo-han: taekwondo

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Kim Yo-han. Photo: @y_haa.n/Instagram

Among this line-up of Korean stars, we probably would have had the highest chance of seeing K-pop idol Kim Yo-han in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, if he had not quit taekwondo. The star, who became known through the Korean survival reality show Produce 101, practised the sport for 13 years, coming from a “taekwondo family” with his father and two younger sisters training in taekwondo too.

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In recent reality shows, Kim has even shown off his taekwondo skills together with his sisters.