Chung, member of the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey team, will represent the U.S. in Paralympic Judo beginning September 10th
Although Sarah only began competing in Judo just over a year and a half ago, she’s already made quite a big impression in a short period of time. Through her work ethic and unquestioned dedication, Sarah is already ranked #1 in the United States and #8 in the world in the Female +70kg Paralympic division. Chung, a member of the Menomonee Judo Club, has had outstanding results at three major Paralympic Games qualifying tournaments in the past year – 5th at the IBSA World Cup in Eger, Hungary, 7th at the IBSA World Games in Seoul, Korea and finally, a 2nd place finish at the ParaPan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
Chung was recently quoted as saying, “I’m absolutely ecstatic (about competing in Rio)! This has been a crazy ride over the last few years. There’s been times where I let doubt creep in as far as my ability to reach this goal, but I couldn’t be happier for all of the people who have believed in me and supported me on this path.”
When asked how she found the sport of Judo, Chung elaborated, “I attended an all-girls sports camp when I was 15. It was focused on empowering young women with disabilities. It was there that I saw my first judo demonstration.” In December of 2013, she began her training at the Menomonee Judo Club in Chicago which is the Paralympic National Training Center.
These days you can find her at the Menomonee Judo Club 5 days a week while she prepares for the Rio games. Her commute itself speaks to her dedication to the sport. She travels more than four hours round trip to practice. On a typical training day, she leaves her apartment, walks half a mile to the train station, takes the train an hour and 25 minutes to the Clybourn stop, transfers to a bus, and walks to Menomonee Judo Club.
Sarah was born legally blind and, although she found her way to judo, she states, “I actually grew up trying a number of different sports including taekwondo, soccer and cross country. I recently found out about blind hockey from a friend who plays in New York and suggested I get involved.”
Blind Hockey started quietly in Chicago as a Try Hockey For Free event in November of 2015 to gauge interest in the sport. The players are all legally blind and range in age from 5 to 40-plus. They arrive with experience from learn-to-skate to some players having played on a hockey team previously. The initial response was so positive, AHAI, USA Hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks threw their support behind the team, and the Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey (CBBH) team was born. For more information about Blind Hockey, click here for a great video!
“It’s exciting to see the explosive growth of Blind Hockey as our newest discipline within USA Hockey. It is especially exciting that the Chicago Blackhawks Blind program has grown so fast and has such phenomenal athletes such as Sarah Chung participating on the team,” stated USA Hockey President Jim Smith. “She is the authentic example of strength and determination in an athlete and an example for all of us to follow”.
“Sarah joined our Chicago Blackhawks Blind Hockey team this past year, and with her natural athletic ability, has transitioned into an outstanding hockey player for our club,” says Head Coach, Michael Svac. “We are extremely proud of Sarah. She is a true leader on and off the ice and is an inspiration to all of us in what can be accomplished through hard work and dedication. We will all be cheering her on as she represents the USA in Rio.”
“I hope to be a member of the CBBH team this fall, but it will depend on my schedule post-Rio. I will also be attending graduate school full-time this fall at Adler University; I’d love to make hockey part of my routine. I definitely plan to participate at some level this season,” said Chung when asked if she would be a returning CBBH team member this fall.
Want to know more about Paralympic Judo? Click HERE for the complete spectators’ guide. You can follow Sarah’s quest for Gold in Rio at www.rio2016.com/en or click here to visit her Team USA profile page.