By Yoo Jee-ho
INCHEON, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- At the tender age of 12, South Korean skateboarder Moon Gang-ho has set an ambitious goal for himself at the Asian Games in China that transcends merely winning a medal for himself.
"I want to promote skateboarding at the Asian Games and help more people learn about the sport," Moon told reporters Wednesday at Incheon International Airport before departing for Hangzhou, China, for his debut at the continental event. He will be the second-youngest South Korean athlete in Hangzhou, only about six months older than chess player Kim Sarang.
"I've worked so hard for this competition, and hopefully, it will pay off," added Moon, who picked up skateboarding about four years ago.
By making the national team, Moon has enjoyed some newfound fame, with some of his schoolmates asking for autographs. Moon said he's trying to take it all in stride.
"I think I have a lot of tricks in my bag, even though I am still very young," Moon said. "On the other hand, I don't have that much experience competing internationally, so I will probably have to battle some nerves. But I also think this will be a good opportunity for me."
All six South Korean skateboarders bound for Hangzhou are teenagers, with the 19-year-old Han Jae-jin being the oldest. Cho Hyun-ju, 16, said competing on a youthful team has its benefits.
"We enjoy each other's company during our down time," Cho said. "And even when we aren't competing, we still like to get on our boards and have some fun that way."
Cho has been in some international skateboarding events but has never before been a part of a large national delegation at a multisport competition like the Asian Games.
"I am excited and nervous at the same time to be with athletes from so many different sports," Cho said with a smile. "I am ready to demonstrate my skills, and I hope people will be tuning in."
Cho said injuries are par for the course for skateboarders, and she herself is recovering from a recent ankle sprain. But the high school student is determined to come through for her classmates.
"They're getting ready for midterms, but they promised they will be watching my competition and cheering me on," Cho said. "I am going to bring them a medal."