The first thing you have to know about the Korean unicycle team is that they’re really more of a crowd than a team like we Singaporeans are. Unicycling became huge in Korea after the master of the taekwondo gyms there decided that it was a great sport for the members to be part of. When we started the Asia-Pacific Unicycle Championships eight years ago, the Koreans were new and it showed. When we were in Korea in August, the unicycling crowd numbered in the hundreds. And we played the best of them.
Watching foreign unicyclists in action has always been a humbling experience for me. Kids are always fun to watch because they’re perpetually falling all over the place, dusting their knees and then repeating whatever the typical adult won’t be caught dead attempting. Kids have no fear. I’ve been asked often by parents here how long it takes to learn to unicycle. It’s hard to explain politely that the kid’s learning ability is really dependent on how afraid his parents are of him falling over. It’s hard to fall badly when you’re learning to unicycle. It’s easy though to have every little bump and bruise accentuated through fear.
Originally, the 10km race was to be held along the Han River but unprecedented flooding moved us further inland. It rained more that day but in retrospect, racing in mud in rain in hot and humid climate isn’t unenjoyable. I had my first Lotteria burger in Korea that day – my first fast food meal in Korea has to be introduced by the locals.
We were a few persons short of a team so in the spirit of Singapore, we enlisted the help of foreign talents from Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. Like the typical sports team from Singapore, we didn’t win and finished the game richer in experience. We did score a lot more than the previous years though considering our limited team strength so it wasn’t as embarrassing as the massacre in Hong Kong.
Australia retained the trophy and Korea lost narrowly in the finals.
The afterparty took place in the neighborhood of Mr Cho, the president of the Korean Unicycling Federation. We had lots of beer, fried food and especially chicken wings. I’m not a big fan of chicken wings but I really like Korean-style fried chicken. This place had possibly the best fried chicken I’ve had ever.
As we’re eating, of course Mr Cho has to show how easy it was to disable everyone, one by one, around the table with a flick of the wrist and a wide grin. Just so as to remind us that we had better not be winning anything at the next Asia-Pacific Championships. Because he’s really a nice guy deep down inside, after doing that, he proceeded to bring us some fresh tomatoes he grew in his garden.
It felt like a good episode of The Powerpuff Girls.