Speed skater Thomas Hong returns home

Going for the Gold

PARK CITY, Utah (Nexstar) – The distance between South Korea and the West Coast of the United States is about 6,000 miles. That means when U.S. athletes travel to PyeongChang for the Winter Olympics, they will be traveling very far from their family and friends. But maybe not all of them.

In this week’s Going for the Gold report, meet Olympic hopeful Thomas Hong.

Hong is a speed skater. He just turned 20 in July.

“For me being young, not everyone knows exactly my capabilities and stuff like that. So there’s definitely some underestimating there, I can sneak up on people,” said Hong.

He almost did that a few years ago. At the age of 17 Hong was the youngest competitor at the 2014 Olympic trials. He finished 11th overall. Since then, he won silver at the World Junior Championships. He’s also a six-time national champion in his age group.

“Everyone’s doing the same thing. What can you do to be better than your competitors? Learning who you are in the sport,” explained Hong.

This has been an ongoing lesson since he was five years old.  That is when Thomas Hong began skating. His family had just moved to the U.S. from South Korea.

“And for some reason we knew somebody in the area and they happened to be doing short track speed skating. And it was just another way for us to get to know the community.”

That was in Maryland. Hong has since moved to Utah to train full-time and obviously he is now thinking about South Korea this February. His dad still lives there.

“Just having familiar eyes watching me. I think that’ll definitely give me an extra spark.”

First Thomas Hong has to qualify for Team USA. The Olympic trials for short track speed skating are in mid-December in Salt Lake City.