February 2018: Olympic Sports Special | Asian American Life

February 2018: Olympic Sports Special | Asian American Life


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>>WELCOME TO OUR SPECIAL EDITION OF ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE. I’M YOUR HOST, ERNABEL DEMILLO. ALL EYES ARE ON PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA, THE SITE OF THIS YEAR’S WINTER OLYMPICS. WE HERE AT ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE ARE CELEBRATING ASIAN AMERICAN ATHLETES WHO ARE BREAKING BARRIERS AND INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION. BREAKING WAVES, UP CLOSE WITH TWO TIME OLYMPIC SWIMMER LIA NEAL. EYES ON THE PRIZE, STANLEY UP WINNER JIM PECK DEBUTS HIS KOREAN HOCKEY TEAM IN THE OLYMPICS. STAYING ON POINT, KYUNG YOON VISITS ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP FENCING SCHOOLS. AND RETURNING HOME. MINNIE ROH REPORTS ON SKIER TOBY DAWSON’S LIFE AFTER THE WINTER OLYMPICS. THIS AND MORE ON ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE.>>>TWO TIME OLYMPIC WINNER LEA NEAL MADE HISTORY BECOMING THE FIRST BIRACIAL WOMAN TO WIN MEDALS IN LONDON AND RIO ON A SWIM TEAM. SHE GOT HER START RIGHT HERE IN NEW YORK WITH THE ASPHALT GREEN SWIM TEAM. LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT HER RISE TO THE TOP. TWO TIME OLYMPIC CHAMPION LEA NEAL FEELS AT HOME IN THE POOL AND WITH HER MOM IN CHINATOWN. >>WHEN I COME HOME FROM COLLEGE, BEING IN CHINATOWN MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I’M SO COMFORTABLE THERE BECAUSE I JUST FEEL LIKE I’M HOME. >>HOME IS ACTUALLY BROOKLYN, WHERE LEAH AND HER TWO BROTHERS GREW UP IN A BIRACIAL FAMILY. HER FATHER IS AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND HER MOTHER IS CHINESE AMERICAN. >>WE WOULD CELEBRATE CHINESE NEW YEAR TOGETHER AND WHEN WE WERE YOUNGER WE WOULD CELEBRATE HALF MOON FESTIVAL AND PLAY AND LANTERNS. WE’LL HAVE DIM SUM EVERY SO OFTEN TOGETHER. THEY STILL MAKE CHINESE FOOD. WE ALWAYS HAVE RED ENVELOPES DURING CHINESE NEW YEAR.>>HAS THAT STOPPED OR YOU STILL GET THEM? >>WE STILL GET THEM AS LONG AS WE’RE NOT MARRIED.>>LEA IS ALSO FLUENT IN CANTONESE, HER MOM’S NATIVE TONGUE.>>WHEN I GREW UP THEY HAVE A SECOND LANGUAGE IN CHINESE IT HELP THEM IN THE LONG RUN, IN WHATEVER THEY DO IN LIFE. FOR NOW, SWIMMING IS WHAT LEA’S DOING IN LIFE. AND THIS IS WHERE IT ALL STARTED, IN NEW YORK. SWIMMING FOR THE ASPHALT GREEN SWIM TEAM. THE AQUAS. WE SPOKE TO LEA AT THEIR BATTERY PARK POOL. >>THEY’VE DEFINITELY BEEN A BIG COMPONENT OF MY LIFE AND HAVE HELPED STEER ME IN A CERTAIN DIRECTION. I’M PRETTY SATISFIED WITH WHERE I AM NOW. VERY GRATEFUL FOR LIKE, HAVING FOUND ASPHALT GREEN, HAVING THEM HAVE, LIKE — SEE THE POTENTIAL IN ME. >>LEA STARTED TAKING LESSONS IN THEIR UPPER EAST SIDE FACILITY WHEN SHE WAS SIX.>>IT WAS NOT EVEN IN THE PICTURE UNTIL MY FRIENDS WERE TAKING LESSONS. AND THEIR MOMS TOLD MY MOM YOU SHOULD BRING LEA TOO.>>IT TURNED OUT SHE WAS GOOD AT IT. AT EIGHT SHE JOINED THE SWIM TEAM ON A SCHOLARSHIP. >>ONCE I WAS ON THE SWIM TEAM, I HAD A COUPLE COACHES WHO REALLY SAW THE POTENTIAL IN ME. AND THEY’RE LIKE, YOU KNOW, LIKE, LEA’S DOING PRETTY WELL. NO ONE REALLY LIKE HAS THIS TECHNIQUE AT THIS AGE. MY MOM IS LIKE OH, REALLY? LIKE, OKAY. IT NEVER LIKE, PHASED HER. LIKE, IT NEVER PHASED ME EITHER. I JUST DID WHAT I HAD TO DO. >>AND BOY, DID SHE. WHILE SHE WAS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL, THE SUMMER BEFORE HER SENIOR YEAR, LEA MADE THE OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM. ONLY THE SECOND AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN TO DO SO. SHE NOT ONLY WON A BRONZE MEDAL SWIMMING ON THE RELAY TEAM BUT BROKE BARRIERS, BEING ONE OF THE FEW AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND ASIAN AMERICAN SWIMMERS TO DO SO. NEXT STOP WAS STANFORD WHERE SHE CONTINUED TO COLLECT BEST TIMES AND INDIVIDUAL MEDALS. THEN IT WAS BACK TO THE OLYMPICS. BUT THIS TIME, SHE WASN’T GOING ALONE. SHE WENT WITH SEVERAL OF HER STANFORD TEAMMATES INCLUDING SIMONE MANUEL. IT WAS THE FIRST TIME TWO AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN WERE ON THE SAME U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TEAM.>>WE HAD A GREAT STANFORD SHOWING IN 2016. WHICH ALSO MADE IT A LOT MORE FUN FOR ME JUST BECAUSE I WAS A ROOKIE AND I DIDN’T REALLY KNOW MANY PEOPLE ON THE NATIONAL TEAM. >>THEN IS WAS BACK TO SCHOOL, WHERE LEA, NOW CO-CAPTIAN OF THE TEAM, LED STANFORD TO A PAC-12 TITLE AND A NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. IN A NUTSHELL, LEA IS A TWO TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST. NINE TIME NATIONAL CHAMPION, AND SIX TIME WORLD CHAMPION MEDALIST. ALL THIS BEFORE TURNING 22. ALONG WITH THE MEDALS, LEA HAS ALSO BECOME AN UNOFFICIAL ROLE MODEL FOR YOUNG ASIAN AMERICAN SWIMMERS. AT A TIME WHEN U.S. SWIMMING IS LOOKING TO ENCOURAGE MORE AAPI’S TO SWIM. ACCORDING TO USA SWIMMING, 66% OF ASIAN AMERICANS DON’T KNOW HOW TO SWIM. THOSE WHO DO, DON’T NORMALLY CHOOSE SWIM AS THEIR SPORT. AAPIs MAKE UP ONLY 5.3% OF USA SWIMMING’S YEAR ROUND MEMBERSHIP. AND ONLY A HANDFUL SWIM AT THE ELITE LEVEL LIKE LEA NEAL, INCLUDING GOLD MEDALIST NATHAN ADRIAN. 12 TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST, NATALIE COUGHLIN WHOSE MOM IS HALF FILIPINO AND THE KIRK SISTERS WHO COMPETED IN 2004. TO ENCOURAGE MORE ASIAN AMERICANS TO SWIM USA SWIMMING CREATED ITS FIRST EVER ASIAN AMERICAN CULTURAL INCLUSION GUIDE. >>THE ASIAN AMERICAN RESOURCE GUIDE WAS ONE OF A SERIES OF FIVE GUIDES THAT CAME OUT. THEY WERE MEANT TO ENGAGE NEW AUDIENCES BY USING HEROES IN THE SPORT THAT ARE SPECIFIC TO THOSE COMMUNITIES, WHETHER THEY WERE COACHES OR ATHLETES. >>WHO KNOWS, THERE MAY BE ANOTHER LEA NEAL WAITING TO JUMP INTO THE POOL. MEANWHILE, WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE ELITE SWIMMER WITH THE STANFORD DEGREE AND THE OLYMPIC MEDALS.>>I’M HOPING TO DO SOME TRAVELING AND TRAINING WITH MY FRIENDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND AROUND THE COUNTRY AS WELL. LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT BECAUSE I’VE NEVER GOTTEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THAT BECAUSE I’VE ALWAYS BEEN IN SCHOOL. THAT DOESN’T ALLOW YOU TO DO ANYTHING.>>AND MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, ANOTHER LAP AT THE 2020 OLYMPICS.>>I’M KYUNG YOON. COMPETITIVE FENCING HAS BEEN A PART OF EVERY MODERN OLYMPIC GAME. AND UNTIL RECENTLY, IT WAS A SPORT DOMINATED BY EUROPEANS. BUT NOW WE’RE SEEING MORE ASIAN AMERICANS PARTICIPATING AND EXCELLING IN THE SPORT. 18-YEAR-OLD JASON OH STARTED FENCING SIX YEARS AGO. >>BEING AN ATHLETE, LIKE, IT’S ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU CAN DO AS A YOUNG PERSON GROWING UP. BECAUSE IT BASICALLY TEACHES YOU DISCIPLINE, TEACHES YOU HOW TO WORK WITH OTHERS. EVEN IF, LIKE, YOU’RE NOT THE BEST AT IT — I DEFINITELY WAS NOT AT THE BEST AT FENCING. WHEN I WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, I THOUGHT MANY TIMES I SHOULD QUIT. >>BUT HE STUCK WITH THE SPORT AND WENT ON TO BECOME A CHAMPION. MEDALING AT A NUMBER OF NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS AND WORLD CUPS. THIS FALL HE’LL BE HEADING TO HARVARD UNIVERSITY WHERE HE WAS RECRUITED FOR THE FENCING TEAM. JASON’S COACH IS YURY GELMAN, A FIVE TIME OLYMPIC FENCING COACH FOR THE UNITED STATES, AND FOUNDER OF THE MANHATTAN FENCING CENTER IN NEW YORK CITY. HE SAYS THAT FROM THE TIME HE CAME TO THE U.S. IN 1991, COMPETITIVE FENCING HAS GROWN IN POPULARITY, PROFESSIONALISM AND DIVERSITY.>>WHEN I CAME, IT ACTUALLY WAS VERY, VERY BEGINNING. AND I WOULD SAY IT WAS REALLY AMATEUR COMPARED TO EUROPE. NOW WE’RE PROFESSIONALS. WE’RE MUCH STRONGER. BY NUMBERS AND BY QUALITY. AND A LOT OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE COME FROM ALL DIFFERENT TRADES. WE DO HAVE A LOT OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN, A LOT OF EUROPEAN, A LOT OF ASIAN. AND IT’S BECOMING MORE POPULAR IN DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES.>>THIS WAS REFLECTED IN THE COMPOSITION OF THE 2016 U.S. OLYMPIC FENCING TEAM, WHICH WAS ONE OF THE MOST DIVERSE TEAMS REPRESENTING THE UNITED STATES. OF THE 14 MEMBERS, EIGHT OF THE FENCERS WERE PEOPLE OF COLOR, INCLUDING THREE OF ASIAN DESCENT. 23-YEAR-OLD FILIPINO AMERICAN FENCING CHAMPION LEE KIEFER IS THE FIRST U.S. WOMAN TO BE RANKED NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD IN WOMEN’S FOIL. ALEXANDER MASSIALAS ALSO 23 YEARS OLD, HAS A TAIWANESE MOTHER AND A GREEK AMERICAN FATHER WHO IS ALSO A FENCING OLYMPIAN AND HIS COACH. ONE OF THE TOP RANKED FENCERS IN THE WORLD, HE WON A SILVER MEDAL AT THE 2016 OLYMPICS. AND 27 YEAR OLD GEREK LIN MEINHARDT WAS THE FIRST U.S. MEN’S FOIL FENCER TO EARN A NUMBER ONE RANKING IN THE WORLD IN 2014, AND THE FIRST TO WIN A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MEDAL IN 2010.>>MY DREAM IS TO EVENTUALLY MAKE AN OLYMPIC TEAM. >>17 YEAR OLD NORA BURKE HAS BEEN FENCING SINCE SHE WAS TEN YEARS OLD. A SABER CHAMPION, NORA HAS MEDALLED AT A NUMBER OF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. >>MY MOM IS JAPANESE. SHE HAS TAUGHT ME SINCE I WAS LITTLE TO WORK REALLY HARD.>>SHE’S BEEN ENCOURAGED TO SEE TOP FENCERS WHO ARE ASIAN AMERICANS.>>IT’S COOL FOR ME BECAUSE I’M ABLE TO LOOK UP TO THOSE FENCERS, SO IT’S GREAT TO SEE LIKE, PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE YOU WHO ARE DOING — EXCELLING AT THE SPORT YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT. >>A HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR, SHE WAS RECENTLY RECRUITED BY COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY FOR FENCING. YURY GELMAN SAYS BEING AN ELITE FENCER CAN HELP STUDENTS GET AN EDGE IN THE COMPETITIVE WORLD OF COLLEGE ADMISSIONS. >>IT’S CULTURAL, THEY’RE WORKING VERY HARD, VERY DEDICATED. THEY TRY TO KEEP WORKING AND TRY TO GO TO THE BEST UNIVERSITIES. AND PARENTS REALIZE THAT THROUGH SPORT, IN PARTICULAR FENCING, THEY CAN GET INTO THE BEST UNIVERSITIES INCLUDING ALL IVY LEAGUES.>>UNLIKE OTHER SPORTS THAT REQUIRE A CERTAIN HEFT OR HEIGHT, FENCING CAN BE ACCESSIBLE TO AN ATHLETE OF ANY SIZE. >>TALL, SHORT, SKINNY, CHUBBY, IT DOESN’T MATTER. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER. IT’S HERE. IT’S HERE.>>FENCING IS A VERY TACTICAL SPORT WHERE YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS THINK AHEAD AND YOUR NEXT ACTION.>>TECHNIQUE, FOOT WORK, TACTICS, STRATEGIES, IT’S SOMETHING THE COACHES DRILL INTO YOUR BRAIN. ALSO ANOTHER BIG THING IS PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION. A LOT OF THE TIME ATHLETES BEND UNDER PRESSURE AT TOURNAMENTS. THE PERSON WHO CAN REALLY PERFORM THE BEST IS LIKE THE PERSON WHO IS MENTALLY THE STRONGEST.>>AS FOR THE FUTURE, YURY GELMAN SAYS HE SEES FENCERS BECOMING EVEN MORE DIVERSE AS THE FACE OF THE SPORT CONTINUES TO CHANGE IN AMERICA. I’M KYUNG YOON FOR ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE.>>FOR THE FIRST TIME THE SOUTH KOREAN MEN’S ICE HOCKEY TEAM WILL BE COMPETING AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS IN 2018. AND WHILE SOUTH KOREA MAY NOT BE KNOWN AS A HOCKEY POWERHOUSE, THE MAN BEHIND THE BENCH CERTAINLY HAS THE CREDENTIALS TO MAKE HIS COUNTRY PROUD. >>IT’S NOT JUST HAVING A DREAM AND SAYING I WANT TO PLAY PRO SPORTS. I WANT TO BE A PRO ATHLETE. THERE’S A LOT OF WORK THAT COMES ALONG WITH IT. IT TAKES A VILLAGE IN ORDER FOR YOU TO BECOME, YOU KNOW, A PRO ATHLETE.>>NO ONE KNOWS THAT BETTER THAN JIM PAEK, CURRENTLY THE DIRECTOR OF THE KOREAN ICE HOCKEY ASSOCIATION AND COACH OF THE SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL TEAM. BUT LONG BEFORE HE TOOK A JOB BEHIND THE BENCH OR IN THE FRONT OFFICE, PAEK WAS THE FIRST KOREAN AMERICAN TO PLAY IN THE NHL. >>YOU HAVE TO DREAM BIG, THAT’S MY WHOLE THING. IF YOU PUT A CEILING ON YOURSELF THEN YOU’RE JUST LIMITING YOURSELF. I THINK YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.>>AND IN HIS CAREER, PAEK ACCOMPLISHED TWICE WHAT SOME OF THE BEST NHL PLAYERS NEVER DO ONCE, WINNING THE STANLEY CUP BOTH TIMES WITH THE PITTSBURG PENGUINS. ALSO MAKING HIM THE FIRST KOREAN BORN PLAYER TO HAVE HIS NAME ETCHED ON ONE OF THE BEST KNOWN TROPHIES IN ALL OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. PAEK EVEN SCORED A GOAL SET UP BY A HOCKEY LEGEND MARIO LEMIEUX IN THE 1991 STANLEY CUP FINALS.>>BACK THROUGH TRAFFIC. HE WALKED IN, HE SHOOTS AND SCORES! JIMMY’S BACK!>>WHILE HIS GOAL SCORING WAS OCCASIONAL, HIS TOUGHNESS WAS CONSISTENT. HE WAS KNOWN AS A DEFENSIVE DEFENSEMAN, HELPING HIS GOAL TENDER KEEP PUCKS OUT OF THE NET. AND DOING THAT WHICH ONLY CAN BE DONE IN HOCKEY ON A REGULAR BASIS.>>NOW WE’VE GOT A BIG MIX-UP. OH, LOOK AT THAT.>>THERE IS ALWAYS SOME DISCRIMINATION, THERE’S ALWAYS THOSE RACIAL SLURS. THERE IS. BUT YOU KNOW MY PHILOSOPHY WAS IF YOU MAKE A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT, THEN IT’S BECOME A BIG DEAL.>>PAEK KNEW HOW TO SILENCE THOSE SLURS. >>IT WAS WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK. I’LL BEAT YOU ON THE SCOREBOARD. I’LL JUST OUTPLAY YOU. ONCE YOUR TALENTS TAKE OVER, YOU KNOW — AND I TRULY BELIEVE THAT HOCKEY IS ONE OF THE GREAT SPORTS WHERE A LOT OF THAT DOESN’T MATTER. YOU’RE JUDGED UPON YOUR TALENTS AND YOUR SKILL LEVEL AND HOW WELL YOU CAN DO ON THE ICE. >>NOW THAT’S PAEK’S TOP PRIORITY FOR ALL SOUTH KOREANS, MAKING SURE THEY CAN PLAY THE BEST HOCKEY THEY CAN AND HOPING THE SPOTLIGHT WILL DO THEM SOME GOOD AS WELL. >>IF YOU PLAY EXTREMELY WELL, NOW THERE’S INTEREST. NOW YOU SEE ALL OF THE WORLD WATCHING YOU AND SAYING THIS KOREAN KID, HE’S PRETTY GOOD. NOW YOU’RE GETTING THAT EXPOSURE. >>WHILE THE ENTIRE MEN’S ICE HOCKEY TEAM WILL BE MADE UP OF SOUTH KOREANS SOME OF THE NORTH AMERICAN PLAYERS WHO WERE PLAYING HOCKEY IN KOREA AT THE TIME AND OFFERED CITIZENSHIP. I’M ANDREW FLAZON FOR ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE.>>I’M MINNIE ROH. FOREIGN ATHLETES WINNING AN OLYMPIC MEDAL CAN BE A LIFE ALTERING EVENT. NOBODY KNOWS THIS BETTER THAN TOBY DAWSON, A U.S. BRONZE MEDALIST AT THE 2006 OLYMPICS. HIS MEDAL EARNED HIM A BRAND NEW FAMILY AND A COUNTRY THAT EMBRACED HIM AS ONE OF THEIR OWN.>>DAWSON, IS ACCOMPLISHING THAT. HE’S AT THE BOTTOM.>>THIS WAS THE RUN THAT CHANGED TOBY DAWSON’S LIFE FOREVER. UNTIL THEN, HE WAS TOBY DAWSON, ADOPTED SON OF DEBRA AND MIKE DAWSON OF VALE, COLORADO. THEN HE FOUND OUT HE WAS ACTUALLY A LITTLE BOY WHO WAS LOST AT A MARKET IN SOUTH KOREA WHEN HE WAS THREE YEARS OLD.>>I DON’T HAVE ANY MEMORIES FROM WHEN I WAS A CHILD, EARLIER WHEN I WAS IN KOREA COMING OVER FROM KOREAN TO THE UNITED STATES.>>AS A YOUNG BOY, DAWSON WAS SHOPPING WITH HIS MOTHER IN AN OPEN MARKET WHEN HE WANDERED OFF INTO THE STREET. ONE MINUTE HE WAS THERE, THE NEXT HE WAS GONE.>>I GUESS IT WAS PRETTY CROWDED AT THE TIME AND SHE WAS RUNNING AROUND LOOKING FOR ME, BUT SHE WAS UNABLE TO FIND ME. AND EVENTUALLY I WAS PICKED UP BY THE POLICE AND THEN PLACED INTO AN ORPHANAGE. >>DAWSON SAYS HE LEARNED THE DETAILS OF THAT FATEFUL DAY DURING HIS REUNION WITH HIS BIOLOGICAL FATHER. HE STAYED IN THAT ORPHANAGE FOR SIX MONTHS BEFORE HE WAS ADOPTED BY THE DAWSONS AND TAKEN AWAY TO THE UNITED STATES.>>I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT OR EVEN WANTED TO MEET MY BIRTH PARENTS. IT WAS NOT SOMETHING I WAS INTERESTED IN. I HAVE A YOUNGER BROTHER THAT I GREW UP WITH IN THE UNITED STATES, HE WAS ALSO ADOPTED FROM KOREA. HE ACTUALLY CAME TO KOREA AND WAS ABLE TO TRACK DOWN HIS BIRTH PARENTS. HE GOT TO MEET THEM AND IT WASN’T WHAT HE IMAGINED IT TO BE. I WROTE IT OFF IN MY MIND, OH, THIS IS SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO PUT MYSELF THROUGH.>>HIS ADOPTIVE PARENTS WERE SKI INSTRUCTORS AND HAD THEIR SON ON SKIS AT AN EARLY AGE. IT BECAME APPARENT HE WAS A NATURAL ON THE SLOPES. DAWSON MADE THE U.S. SKI TEAM WHEN HE WAS 19 AND WENT ON TO DOMINATE THE SPORT IN WORLD CUP EVENTS, REACHING THE PODIUM 17 TIMES, INCLUDING SEVEN FIRST PLACE WINS. HE WAS INDUCTED INTO THE SKI AND SNOWBOARD HALL OF FAME, BUT IT WAS THE 2006 OLYMPICS THAT WAS THE PINNACLE OF HIS CAREER AND PROPELLED HIM INTO THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT.>>MY MOM ALWAYS THOUGHT LIKE, IF I WAS TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND MAKE IT TO THE OLYMPICS THAT WOULD BE THE PLATFORM I WOULD BE ABLE TO MEET MY PARENTS. RIGHT AFTER THE OLYMPIC GAMES AND AFTER I FINISHED MY EVENT, THERE WERE PEOPLE COMING OUT OF THE WOODWORK. THERE WAS SO MANY INTERVIEWS WITH THE KOREAN MEDIA AND THINGS LIKE THAT. A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE CLAIMING TO BE MY BIRTH PARENTS. SO THAT WAS OVERWHELMING.>>SO MUCH SO, THAT DAWSON, UNDER THE ADVICE OF THE U.S. SKI TEAM WITHDREW FROM A WORLD CUP EVENT IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE OLYMPICS. SCHEDULED TO TAKE PLACE IN NONE OTHER THAN HIS BIRTH COUNTRY, SOUTH KOREA. HE RETIRED FROM COMPETITIVE SKIING AND TRIED TO ESCAPE FROM THE MEDIA FRENZY SURROUNDING HIM.>>I NEVER BROUGHT IT UP. I NEVER TALKED ABOUT IT. BUT THE KOREAN MEDIA KNEW THAT I WAS ADOPTED. THEY KNEW THAT I CAME FROM KOREA. AND SO THAT WAS ONE OF THEIR BIG STORIES. AND THEN THEY STARTED — THE MEDIA STARTED DOING RESEARCH AND TRYING TO PUT THE PIECES TOGETHER.>>THEN ABOUT A YEAR LATER, CAME THE NEWS THAT MOST ADOPTED CHILDREN DREAM ABOUT. THERE WAS A MAN WHOSE BLOODWORK AND DNA MATCHED DAWSON’S. IN 2007 HE MET HIS BIRTH FATHER. AN INTENSELY PRIVATE MOMENT PLAYED OUT IN FRONT OF DOZENS OF CAMERAS AND REPORTERS. >>WHEN HE WALKED INTO THE ROOM AND I COULD SEE MYSELF IN HIS FACE, I WAS LIKE, I KNEW THIS MAN WAS DEFINITELY RELATED TO ME. NO DOUBT WAS MY FATHER BECAUSE OF THE FACIAL HAIR AND THE FACIAL STRUCTURE. HE JUST WAS JUST AN OLDER VERSION OF ME. >>ALONG WITH HIS FATHER, A BUS DRIVER, DAWSON WAS ALSO REUNITED WITH A YOUNGER BROTHER, A STEP MOTHER, A SLEW OF UNCLES, AUNTS AND COUSINS AND INTRODUCED TO THE KOREAN CULTURE, CUISINE, WAY OF LIFE. AFTER 25 YEARS OF ABSENCE, THERE WAS A LOT OF CATCHING UP TO DO.>>IT WAS LIKE, ALL THE RELATIVES WANTED TO PICK UP AS WHEN I WAS LOST. SO THEY’RE TREATING ME LIKE A 4-YEAR-OLD OR A 3-YEAR-OLD, TOO. SHOVING FOOD IN MY MOUTH. WHICH I HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT’S THE CULTURE IN KOREA AND THAT SHOWS THE AFFECTION OF THE PEOPLE TOWARDS YOU. TO ME, I WAS SO RESERVED AND SO TAKEN ABACK BY THAT. >>ALMOST OVERNIGHT, DAWSON FOUND HIMSELF LIVING A LIFE HE NEVER IMAGINED FOR HIMSELF. SOUTH KOREA APPOINTED HIM AN HONORARY AMBASSADOR. >>GOOD AFTERNOON, MY NAME IS TOBY DAWSON.>>HE WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING SECURE THE BID FOR THE 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS THAT TAKES PLACE THIS YEAR IN PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA.>>PYEONGCHANG.>>HE ACCEPTED THE POSITION OF HEAD COACH OF THE KOREAN NATIONAL SKI TEAM. BEFORE HE KNEW IT, HE WAS PACKING HIS BAGS AND MOVING ACROSS THE GLOBE.>>I DIDN’T WANT TO FIND MY BIRTH PARENTS AND I DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO KOREA BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO TURN MY BACK ON THE PARENTS THAT LOVED ME SO MUCH. I DIDN’T WANT TO TURN MY BACK ON THE COUNTRY THAT ADOPTED ME AND TAKEN GREAT CARE OF ME AS WELL. >>DAWSON IS NOW LIVING AND WORKING IN SOUTH KOREA. HE’S BUILDING UP THE KOREAN NATIONAL SKI TEAM AND HOPES TO GO FOR GOLD AT THE 2018 OLYMPICS.>>I THINK THAT THE SPORT IS SO GREAT. MY GOALS FOR THE KOREANS WOULD BE TO, WHEN I WALK AWAY FROM THE HEAD COACHING POSITION, TO BE ABLE TO LEAVE A TEAM OR AN ORGANIZATION THAT’S STILL GROWING SO THERE’S GOING TO BE A FUTURE IN THIS SPORT IN KOREA WELL AFTER THE TIME I LEAVE. >>HE IS ALSO REUNITED WITH HIS BIRTH MOTHER IN A PRIVATE LUNCH, AWAY FROM THE CAMERAS WHERE THEY COULD SPEAK CANDIDLY ABOUT THE YEARS APART. SHE TELLS A VERY DIFFERENT STORY ABOUT HIS DISAPPEARANCE. HOW SHE LEFT HIM IN HIS UNCLE’S CARE AND WHEN SHE CAME HOME FROM WORK, HE WAS NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. DAWSON SAYS HE’S NOT SURE WHO TO BELIEVE.>>SHE SEEMS SO TRUTHFUL AND HONEST WHEN SHE’S TALKING ABOUT THIS STUFF. WHEN I HAVE HEART TO HEART CONVERSATIONS WITH HER, SHE IS HIDING NOTHING.>>HE SAYS HE HARBORS NO ILL WILL AGAINST HIS BIRTH PARENTS. BUT NOW, AS A FATHER HIMSELF, HIS SON MAX IS ABOUT THE SAME AGE AS HE WAS WHEN HE VANISHED. DAWSON SAYS HE WOULD NEVER STOP SEARCHING FOR HIS CHILD.>>EMOTIONALLY I WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO HANDLE NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND MY SON. I WOULD NEVER GIVE UP, NO MATTER HOW MANY DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS HAVE PASSED. I’M NOT SURE HOW HARD THEY WERE SEARCHING. THEY SAY THEY WERE, BUT IT’S TOUGH TO SAY. IT DIDN’T SEEM LIKE THE ORPHANAGE WAS SO FAR OFF THE BEATEN PATH THAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO HARD TO FIND ME.>>WHILE THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HOW HE ENDED UP IN THE ORPHANAGE ARE MURKY, THIS MUCH IS CLEAR. HAD DAWSON REMAINED WITH HIS BIRTH PARENTS HE PROBABLY WOULD NEVER HAVE BECOME THE OLYMPIAN THAT HE IS TODAY.>>I THINK MY LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH TOUGHER, TO BE HONEST. TO GROW UP IN KOREA, I THINK THAT MY PARENTS, THEY WERE MIDDLE, LOW CLASS. TO BE ADOPTED TO HAVE SUPER AMAZING PARENTS THAT LOVE ME AND TAKE GREAT CARE OF ME. I’VE BEEN SO BLESSED IN MY LIFE.>>DAWSON ACTIVELY VOLUNTEERS AT KOREAN HERITAGE CAMP, A CAMP FOR KOREAN ADOPTEES IN THE U.S. HE DREAMS OF ONE DAY STARTING AN ORGANIZATION THAT CAN HELP ADOPTED CHILDREN. I’M MINNIE ROH FOR ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE.>>>IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SPORTS EDITION CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK AT ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE. THAT’S OUR SHOW FOR NOW. I’M ERNABEL DEMILLO. THANKS FOR WATCHING. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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