[Yonhap News] For boost of energy, virtuoso violinist turns to hockey
The serene act of playing the violin and the rough-and-tumble sport of hockey don't exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly. You wouldn't necessarily associate one with the other.
But that's precisely why South Korean virtuoso violinist Park Ji-hae plays hockey in her spare time, or even when she barely has much spare time at all. When she's drained from recitals and international tours, Park doesn't just lie down and sleep for hours on end. She plays hockey, a sport that she calls her source of fuel and energy.
"After playing music for so long, I found myself just going through the motions at times, and I needed to reinvigorate myself," Park told Yonhap News Agency in her practice room in Seoul on Wednesday. "I'd always loved skating, and I wanted to find something that was the complete opposite of playing violin. I settled on hockey."
Park is also a figure skating aficionado, but hockey particularly appealed to her because it's a team sport.
This photo provided by Haewa JHP shows South Korean violinist Park Ji-hae pose with her instrument. (Yonhap)
"I am usually by myself with the violin on stage," she said. "And I loved the idea of playing with others on ice."
Park, 32, was named an honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Monday. The move might have raised the eyebrows of people who didn't know Park's background as a winter sports-loving soloist and a fan of the National Hockey League (NHL) who owns a Washington Capitals No. 8 Alex Ovechkin jersey.
Months before her appointment as a goodwill spokesperson for PyeongChang 2018, Park produced a music video to promote the first Winter Olympics to take place in South Korea. The video is set to "Jihae Ariang," her violin cover of the traditional Korean folk song, and starts with Park gliding on the ice as she plays her instrument.
It all seems harmless and innocuous enough. Then about a minute into the clip, Park picks up her gym bag and a hockey stick and heads to a rink for a game with the boys.
The game in the video may well be staged, but watching Park deftly move through larger men and put the puck in the back of the net, it's easy to see she isn't just a token female.
The video ends with Park and her fellow hockey players shouting words of encouragement and support for PyeongChang 2018.
"I didn't make the video just to show people how well I can skate," said Park, who's planning a second video in support of the Winter Olympics. "I wanted to let people know that there is this violinist who actually enjoys hockey, and people who aren't professional or Olympic athletes still support PyeongChang."
Park grew up playing violin in Mainz, Germany, from an early age, under the influence of her violin-playing mother Lee Yeun-hong. And when she became old enough to go to school, Park's parents sent her to South Korea so that their daughter wouldn't forget the Korean language.
This photo provided by Haewa JHP shows South Korean violinist Park Ji-hae (C) performing in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Germany boasts a much longer tradition in skating and winter sports in general, but ironically enough it was in South Korea that Park learned how to skate.
Park said as a child she spent a lot of time watching the Winter Olympics with her father, and the quadrennial competition was "a festival" for her family. Then during one winter break from school in South Korea, Park learned that a local rink was offering a special two-month lesson for students.
She signed up and hasn't looked back since.
"I was the kind of kid who would rollerblade around the whole neighborhood after school every day," Park recalled. "And ice skating wasn't that difficult for me."
As a grown-up, Park picked up hockey in search of a boost away from music. She walked on to her amateur club, Blizzard, to the surprise of many already on the team. Most players had come through the introduction of mutual friends, and Park, the only woman on the roster, said she was initially seen as a curiosity at best.
But it didn't take long for her teammates to recognize Park's unbridled passion for the sport.
This photo provided by Haewa JHP shows South Korean violinist Park Ji-hae (C) in her hockey gear. (Yonhap)
"They now tell me I am probably No. 1 on the team when it comes to love of hockey," said Park, who said she once played every day during a weeklong break in Korea from her international tour. "It's such an addictive sport. I am actually glad I am not all that good at it. If I were better at hockey, I'd be even more hooked on it."