This hockey player escaped oppression and famine in North Korea to live his Paralympic dream.
Choi Kwang Hyouk lived through a challenging childhood. He was born into a famine that split his family apart. He made a living on his own selling ice cream on trains until his rough life worsened in May 2000 at age 13. He was pushed off a crowded car as the train was starting — the wheels caught his ankle and crushed it. Doctors amputated his leg without anesthesia and Hyouk says the pain was so bad that he was in and out of consciousness for week. He then lived a life of begging and underground shelters until it all changed in 2001.
That summer, Hyouk’s long-lost uncle visited him — he and Hyouk’s father had successfully defected to South Korea and was sent to smuggle out him and his sister. Both Hyouk and his uncle fled to China where he spent weeks and crutches before reaching South Korea in August, 2001.
While Hyouk struggled to adjust to his new life, he found a new meaning through sledge hockey. 17 years after defecting, the 31-year-old looks to win Korea’s first medal in Paralympic sledge hockey history.
“The past is the past and I am all about the present. What’s important is that I am wearing the colors of South Korea, not the flag of any other country. I feel that I have arrived 100 percent.” Hyouk stated