February 17, 2006

Freestyle skiing-South Korea adopts US Olympic pin-up

By Lee Jin-joo

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea discovered a new Olympic
pin-up boy on Friday and it turns out he is American.

Pictures of South Korea-born Toby Dawson, who took bronze
in the men's freestyle skiing moguls, were in almost all South
Korean newspapers on Friday, while scant mention was made of
the two people who finished ahead of Dawson in the event.

Even though he competes for the red, white and blue of the
United States, Dawson shot to celebrity status half a world
away because of his birth in South Korea, where his biological
Korean parents abandoned him on a doorstep.

Dawson was adopted at the age of three by a pair of ski
instructors in Colorado, where he quickly shared his adopted
parents' passion for the snow-covered hills.

Papers and TV broadcasts in South Korea prominently showed
two images of Dawson: the first was of his triumph in Italy and
the second was a mug-shot photo of him as a toddler used by an
adoption agency.

His birth name "Kim Soo-chul" is written in Roman
characters on a tag that is affixed to the tattered shirt of a
sad-looking child.

South Korean media recounted how Dawson sometimes had
trouble as a child growing up in a community where there were a
lot of blond-haired and blue-eyed children.

They showered praise on his parents in Colorado and warmly
mentioned Dawson's fondness for a certain type of Korean liquor
and a Korean barbecue dish.

Dawson will come to South Korea next month to compete,
papers said, and he has indicated he would like to find his
biological parents.

"Dawson will be able to smile even more brightly than now
once he finds his (biological) parents," the major daily Dong-A
Ilbo wrote.