Simon Cho during NAKASEC’s 2010 Community Speaking Tour in Los Angeles (Photo Credit: Korean Resource Center)
NAKASEC caught up with Simon Cho, Korean American short track speed skater and member of the US Olympic Team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, who took home a bronze medal in the 5000m relay. He also participated in our Community Speaking Tour last May where he shared his story to over 1,000 children, youth and seniors in Los Angeles.
As part of our 2011 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month “Heroes Among Us” series, we sat down with him to talk a little bit about his parents, his childhood growing up as an undocumented immigrant, his heroes and the thrill of the Olympic experience.
Hi this is Simon here. I was originally born in Seoul, South Korea, but I immigrated to the United States when I was five and spent most of my childhood in Maryland.
My parents wanted me to have much of a normal childhood as possible so they did their best to make sure that I had as much opportunities to succeed as everybody else.
You know, I’ve been an undocumented immigrant and I was too young to go through the actual challenges but I do really remember my parents struggling keep jobs. I mean it had nothing to do with their working abilities or ethics. People just looked down upon them.
I consider my parents to be the most strong willed people I have ever met. You know, they love their children unconditionally and are not afraid of hard work. My mom is a very fun and energetic person and my dad is really serious and all about business. He loves to have fun, but times have been very hard for our family so he hasn’t been able to have that luxury, you know.
I had a fairly happy childhood growing up, even though I was always aware that our family was in a serious predicament.
And I feel like what we really need in this country is immigration reform. Many immigrant families have had to overcome unnecessary challenges on a daily basis. We should all have the same opportunity to succeed. That’s the way I look at it. I mean this is the land of opportunity after all. I feel like immigrants are really heroes among us.
Going to the Olympics and winning the bronze medal was definitely a pivotal moment in my life. It’s opened many doors for me and I am thankful for the position that I am in.
To be quite honest though, I was way too caught up in making sure my body was in 100% condition to be able to have any fun at the Olympics. You know, I understood that my job at the Olympics was to be the best athlete that I can be for my country, but at the same time I feel like I could’ve stopped for a moment to take a deep breath and, you know, truly appreciate the moment. But, you know, all in all I had a very good time while I was there.