(Reuters) - If South Korean freestyle skiers deliver their nation’s first Winter Games medal in moguls on Monday, coach Toby Dawson will have added another remarkable chapter to his story that has far exceed the imagination of any screenwriter.
U.S. Olympic medalist Dawson was born in South Korea’s Busan where, at the age of three, he was separated from his mother in a bustling marketplace.
Unable to find his parents, the police sent him to an orphanage where he was adopted by a pair of American ski instructors from Vail, Colorado.
He took up freestyle skiing, finished fifth on his World Cup debut at 20 and won his first world championship medal four years later but it was his bronze in moguls at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics that made him an overnight sensation in South Korea.
After the Games, South Korea’s ministry of tourism discovered likely genetic matches for his biological parents and when Dawson sent his blood samples two weeks later, they found his biological father Kim Jae-soo.
“It was a pretty big shock,” Dawson told reporters.
“They brought me into a room with a billion cameras. They called him out and we were introduced in front of a (massive) flash.
“It was overwhelming. He kept saying, ‘I love you’ over and over in Korean, which was extremely awkward for me. The Korean press asked me to say, ‘I love you’ back.”
Dawson’s biological mother had divorced his father and was also located but did not come to the reunion though some years later Dawson said on Twitter that they were meeting up.
In 2012, Dawson took up the challenge to become the head coach of South Korea’s freestyle moguls team and returned to the land of his birth.
“The two girls and three boys that I started with in 2012 are all in the Olympics now. I was pretty excited to get them all into the home Olympics in Korea. In 2014 (in) Sochi, I only got two girls and one boy,” he said.
That boy, Choi Jae-woo, who finished 12th at the Sochi Games, remains the host nation’s best hope for a moguls medal in Pyeongchang.
“It’s unbelievable how much pressure is on him. He’s ranked fourth in the world, they are expecting the world of him. It’s a little sad because they won’t let him settle in,” Dawson added.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon