TO THE TRACK
Yeosu (or Yosu) is located on the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of South Korea 191 miles from the capital of Seoul. The main part of the city consisting of multiple high rise buildings is nestled in a valley surrounded by thick pine-tree covered foothills. One is immediately struck by the contrast of the plush green hills and the multi-colored cement buildings. There are very few English speakers and only occasionally can you tell what kind of store you are passing by as almost all the descriptors are in Korean characters.
On the way to the track we passed many small subdivisions --- clusters of homes, many little more than shantys, terraced on the hillsides. Adjacent to these are numerous community gardens tended by the locals. It is common to see sod-covered steps cut into the hilllsides. The track itself is also carved out of the side of a hill. It is part of a larger sport complex including a soccer stadium. The Yeosu area will also serve as host to the 2012 World Expo.
One is first struck by the vibrant colors – the red track, green infield, and bright orange bleacher seats and safety wall along the road. And more color with each country's uniforms --- Mexico in green/yellow, Japan in bright yellow/black, Belgium in Turquoise. Surprisingly, there are a number of countries here in red, white, and blue – Chile, France, and Italy – but we are the only ones to proudly wear the stars and stripes. Some countries are only represented by one or two contestants. It's quite dramatic when our 25 skaters stop out onto the track.
This mornings practice was a time for each skater to get their first feel for the track. The most common word I heard to describe it was “weird”. It has bumpy corners. Some of the skaters felt as if they were starting all over. Many wished that they could have had a longer time to practice on the track. They found out that the Australians had already been here a month! When the first practice was over, you could sense a group sigh of relief. We had put our wheels on the ground and we were going to be just fine!