Retired South Korean Elite Athletes to Leave UT as Global Sports Ambassadors
KNOXVILLE— When South Korea hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics, Kyunsuk Kim hopes to be at the forefront of helping his country plan the international event.
Kim, 36, a retired competitive alpine skier, this fall studied at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, through the Next Generation Sports Talent (NEST) program, an initiative designed to prepare retired South Korean elite athletes to be coaches and international sports diplomats.
Sixteen people, from Asian Game champions to Olympic athletes, participated in the semester-long program and are wrapping up their time this week.
“We have to give back,” Kim said, noting that many of the athletes will likely work for various sports committees. He will seek an internship with the International Ski Federation, adding that he would like to help with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia as well. He eventually would like to join the Korean Olympic Committee.
NEST, in its fourth year, is sponsored by the South Korean government in partnership with the UT College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the English Language Institute, and national/international sports governing bodies.
UT Knoxville competed against five other US institutions to house this program. To date, about seventy athletes have gone through NEST.
This semester, the athletes improved their English language skills, learned sports marketing, picked up coaching techniques, and worked in their area of athletic expertise. They also were matched with UT students who served as their peer mentors.
“The overall objective is to develop future, global leaders,” NEST program director Fritz Polite said. “We want them to be part of the global concepts of sports, including governing bodies.”
For Eunhui “Tina” An, 23, her time at UT through NEST gave her a deeper desire to study more about how to use sports as an agent of peace in developing countries.
An, a judo champion who won a gold medal in the 2005 Hong Kong International Judo Game, said that through sports diplomacy in developing countries, “I can give them a vision of how we can live passionately and peacefully.”
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