There were no doubts in the minds of short track experts that the then teenage Jung had the natural ability to excel, but did he have the mind and work ethic to follow suit?
Olympic Champion Steven Bradbury thinks he does now.
“His progression since the Sochi trials was always going to be a difficult road because he had to get fit and strong and learn how to race,” Steven Bradbury said.
“He’s got that aerobic base in his system now and his body can cope with the intensity. That was always going to take hard yards. Hopefully he’s got all that now and learned the race tactics.”
“Some of those boxes have been ticked. We will find out in the coming season and he may come into a place where he finds that improvement,” Bradbury said.
After relocating from his family home in Melbourne to train full-time in Korea thirteen months ago, the now 20-year-old Jung travelled to Sydney last week and made an effortless, clean sweep of the World Cup Trials over three distances.
“It was good to have everyone back in Australia together. The trials were the first races of the Olympic season for me and they felt a little uncomfortable but it ended well and I feel mentally stronger,” Jung said.
“Racing is a rest from training – and there’s been a lot of training.”
With coach Jae-su Chun and OWIA team mates Deanna Lockett and Pierre Boda, living away from home has brought a level of maturity to a young man who is seemingly on a mission.
“The last thirteen months have been good. This year is the strongest I’ve ever been. My technique is getting better but there’s still things to fix and work to do.”
“My coach is so good. He’s experienced and has been in the sport for so long.”
Asked if he trusted coach Jae-su, Jung didn’t miss a beat, answering, “fully”.
Preparing equipment is an essential component for success. The technology extends to individually moulded boots and ‘cut proof’ aerodynamic racing suits.
“it’s very personal. Every single person has a different blade setting, a different radius and bend in the blade. My coach does all that and makes sure it’s right.”
“Watching him do box jumps in the gym is something,” Bradbury says. “He is naturally gifted with springs in his legs.”
“If he improves as much this season as what he did last season, I can see him in the top 15.”
Anything can happen in short track as Bradbury well knows. The proviso he explained is that a short tracker must be race hardened.
“Andy has turned himself around since Sochi into a seasoned, hardened short tracker, which doesn’t happen in a couple of years. It takes a lot of years.”
“The depth in short track now across the world now is just ridiculous. You can be in a heat that looks like a final in the first round,” Bradbury commented.
“In saying that Andy has the natural speed. He’s got the grounding now from five years of hard yards.”
“Medals (in PyeongChang) would be a surprise outside the chance for Deanna (Lockett), but the future for Australia in short track is certainly looking better.”
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a group of talented young skaters all starting to push up on the top guys in the national team. That was what created the era I was part of in the 1990s when there was a lot of elite and semi elite skaters.”
Following the trials last week in Sydney, Jung headed home to Melbourne for a week to spend time with his family, meet up with old friends and have a rest.
“I miss Australia. It’s the only place I feel like I’m home as soon as I arrive at the airport. This was a good time to come back after thirteen months. I haven’t been back – not even once.”
His growing self-belief and confidence is matched by a relaxed, quiet determination. His intent and passion are visible, as evidenced by the mystery tattoos on the fingers of his left hand ‘T’, ‘L’, ‘D’ and ‘E’.
“Not even my mum knows what they stand for. It’s a mystery. When I win, I will tell people,” he said grinning.
The first short track World Cup and Olympic qualifier will be held in Budapest, Hungary on September 30 and October 1st and Jung is after results.
A series of four World Cups will serve as Olympic qualifiers. For more information on the ISU Short Track Olympic qualification World Cup series click here.
By Belinda Noonan OWIA