PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A dazzling display of swirling light and dance energized this sleepy rural corner of South Korea Friday as dignitaries, athletes and fans witnessed the opening ceremony of the 23rd Olympic Winter Games amid an urgent message ...
“I didn’t feel Korean, I didn’t speak Korean,” she said in a telephone interview. “It sounded a little crazy.”
Germany dominates luge the way the University of Connecticut dominates women’s college basketball. The country has four luge tracks, and nearly a quarter of the world’s courses for elite competitions. The success is a remnant of the country’s Cold War divide. Of the 129 Olympic medals awarded in luge since 1964, 75 have been won by East or West Germans or athletes from the unified team.
At the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, German lugers won all four available gold medals. Frisch failed to make that sliding team. Competition and pressure are immense to make the country’s Olympic squad. Discouraged, she retired in 2015 at age 22.
“It was frustrating,” Frisch, now 25, said. “I didn’t have much fun anymore.”
Then came an unexpected call.
South Korea’s luge federation hired a German, Steffen Sartor, to be its national coach in preparation for the Olympics. And Sartor contacted Frisch in late 2015 to gauge her interest in competing for South Korea in the Games. Her first response was no.
In early 2016, a second entreaty came. This time Frisch reconsidered. She missed traveling and competing. And she was drawn to South Korea’s history of existing on a divided peninsula. In some ways, it resembled Germany’s own rived past.
“I liked the idea of becoming Korean,” Frisch said.
She took 40 hours of language, history and cultural lessons from a teacher in Germany, then moved to South Korea and immersed herself in the language and the culture. At first, some South Korean lugers were wary of her presence, Frisch said.
“I got the feeling that some of my teammates thought I should have not come to Korea,” she said. “They thought I’m just a foreigner and were afraid I would take their place. They did not see that I could also help them to become better.”
In December 2016, Frisch received South Korean citizenship after passing an interview where she answered questions about Korean historical figures and sang the country’s national anthem. She also got better at luge.
“I’m having fun again,” Frisch said. “I reached skills I never had in Germany.”
Olympic Games (2018),Citizenship and Naturalization,South Korea,Luge Racing