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From the Ivy League to the Olympic stage, Caroline Park ’11 has continued to play hockey at an elite level. Following her career as a Tiger, Park hoped to continue playing hockey, and she earned a spot on the combined Korean National Team. The Daily Princetonian caught up with Park following the Olympics to learn more about her experience.

The Daily Princetonian: How did you initially get involved in hockey?

Caroline Park: I started playing ice hockey because of my older brother Michael. My parents initially tried to keep me away from ice hockey because they were worried I would get injured. My mother hoped I would pursue piano, so whenever the piano teacher came to my house for lessons, I pretended to be sick and locked myself in the bathroom. Once the piano teacher left, I would go outside and play road hockey with my brother. Once my parents caught on to what I was doing, they gave in and signed me up for ice hockey.

DP: What were the highlights of your time playing for Princeton? What did your collegiate hockey experience teach you?

CP: I’ve always appreciated the friendships I cultivated through playing hockey at Princeton. These are the friendships that will last a lifetime and are so special — few outside of hockey would understand the pains of morning lifts, shuttle runs, beep tests, etc. My collegiate hockey experience taught me about time management. It was difficult adjusting to life as a student-athlete. However, it was an invaluable learning experience that prepared me for training for the Olympics while in medical school.

DP: Were the Olympics always an aspiration of yours? Had you dreamed of competing on world stage, or did it come more as a sudden opportunity? 

CP: I feel like every child who grows up playing ice hockey in Canada dreams of competing at the Olympics. I watched it every four years with my family and was always in admiration and awe of the athletes. Obviously, I didn’t think I would end up competing for a Unified Korea. However, I think that has made everything infinitely more memorable on top of an event that is already incredibly special to begin with.   

DP: What was the biggest reason you decided to accept the Korean coaches’ offer and take time off from medical school to pursue hockey?

CP: I love ice hockey. Even after playing four years of collegiate hockey at Princeton, I still had a desire to compete and play ice hockey at a competitive level. So when the opportunity to play at the international level presented itself, I did not hesitate for a second. I knew there could always be a way to work around things, even something as intense as medical school. You only live life once, so I figured, why not try to pursue all of my passions?

DP: What does it mean to you to be competing in the Olympics?  What has been your best memory from the Games so far?

CP: It’s a dream come true and such an honor to be competing for the host country. My best memory of the Games so far would be walking in the Opening Ceremonies. The roar of the crowd as we entered the stadium was incredible. I doubt there will be many things in my life that could top that moment.

DP: What does it mean to you to be a part of this historic moment of unification between North and South Korea?

CP: It is a privilege and something I will look back on with pride and fond memories. It truly is a historic moment in Olympic/sports history, and it’s a reminder of how sports can transcend cultural barriers. We’ll have to wait and see if it will have any lasting implications, but being a part of a team that symbolized peace and unity was very special.

DP: What do you value most about this experience? What has been a lesson learned from training for the Olympics and playing with teammates from a variety of backgrounds?

CP: One of my favorite aspects of this experience is meeting and getting to know our 12 North Korean teammates. Although we may have different cultural backgrounds, they were not much different from us. Our team became incredibly close by the end of the Olympics, and it’s these bonds I value most from this experience. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and get to know these amazing women who very few would ever get the chance to meet.

DP: What are your plans for after the Olympics?

CP: I'm planning to take some time off to rest and recover after the Olympics, but I’ll return to and finish medical school!

DP: Is there any advice you might want to offer current Princeton students?

CP: Never give up on your dreams! Life is too short to not pursue whatever you’re passionate about, so go after your dreams relentlessly and fearlessly. 

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