Korea’s star player Kang Lee-seul opens up about role models on the court, overcoming physical challenges, and staying mentally tough on the road to the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney.
The countdown to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 in Sydney is on. In this new WH series, Through Her Eyes, we ask players from each of the 12 competing nations – from Canada to Korea and Australia – to share their career journeys, what basketball means to them and how they approach training and mental wellbeing.
When Kang Lee-seul stepped out on the court at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, her surroundings were markedly different from those she’d once imagined. For months, the world had been gripped by the global pandemic. Even sport, which seemed to exist in its own separate bubble, was not immune to the impact and restrictions, meaning Kang’s family and supporters at home were unable to be there in the stadium, sounding their cheers from the bleachers. For many athletes, playing before a non-existent crowd was a major adjustment, but it did little to diminish the significance of the occasion for Kang, who looks back on her Olympic experience with great fondness.
“It was unfortunate that a lot of fans couldn’t come spectate given that Tokyo isn’t too far from Korea as well. The Olympics aren’t always going to be held in Asia, being that close to Korea made it unfortunate,” says the basketball star. Even so, she doesn’t hesitate when asked to name her most memorable career moment to date: “Being able to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was probably the proudest moment I had.”
If it’s one thing the Tokyo Olympic Games reinforced, it’s the power of sport to unite audiences around the world and, perhaps more importantly, to inspire those watching to get involved. Growing up in Korea, Kang learned to play basketball from her primary school coach. The sport was already popular, something that can be credited to the iconic performance of the Korean women’s basketball team, who reached the finals of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. At the time, the women’s basketball team was merely hoping for a bronze medal and had no expectations of seeing themselves playing in the game for the gold. They may have been defeated by the USA 85-55, but the team came away victorious, knowing that theirs was a talent not to be underestimated.
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In the years since, Korea has looked to build on its basketball success and now, players like Kang are forging the path ahead. Considered one of the best three-point shooters in the Women’s Korean Basketball League (WKBL), Kang has continued to top the league with her scoring prowess, which is a testament to her drive and dedication. When she began her rookie year, she stood at just 1.80 metres – a height that few could regard as a strength when matched against the pros. With taller and stronger foreign players, Kang had to work hard to develop her game, adjusting her training to improve on the accuracy of her three-pointers and footwork.
These challenges have made Kang the player she is today, one who credits her mental toughness as her greatest playing strength. “In the past, if things got difficult physically in terms of taking care of my physical wellbeing, then things became hard mentally, too. I’ve definitely improved because if I’m not doing as well physically as I’d like, it doesn’t impact me mentally as much anymore. Having that mental strength is one of my biggest improvements.”
Kang will look to bring this fighting spirit to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia, marking her first time visiting Down Under. Representing Korea alongside her teammates in the tournament that runs from 22 September through to 1 October, Kang knows that in moments of self-doubt, it’s her colleagues upon whom she can rely on. “During games, when it gets hard on the court, or I have a lot of self-doubt, I don’t think about those things that are causing that self-doubt, but instead focus on my own strengths. Given that basketball is a team sport, I also look towards trusting my teammates and thinking about them,” she says.
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With twelve of the strongest basketball nations taking to Sydney Olympic Park in the hope of victory, Kang is hopeful about Korea’s chances of success. “It’s been a while since Korea has stood on a world level or participated in a world competition, but I’ve got high hopes of showing that Korea is able to do well in basketball. We have more recently been seen as not as strong within the top 12 nations, so I’d like to really show that and win the games that we’re able to win.”
Ahead of her World Cup performance, we sat down with Kang Lee-seul to get to know one of the sport’s rising stars a little better. Here, she shares her pre-game rituals, training tips and favourite way to spend rest day.
What does a typical week of training look like for you?
We do a combination of a lot of weight training, basketball training and a lot of running training across an average week. I particularly love shooting training and shooting around in my spare time. I also love lower-body training when it comes to weight training.
What is your favourite way to spend a rest day?
Sometimes I’ll spend the entire day at home resting, or just completely resting. Other times, I like to spend time with my friends just talking and relieving stress.
What kind of music do you listen to that gets you in training mode?
I listen to a lot of music in general, there isn’t a particular song or artist that I listen to. I’m very open to a lot of different genres.
Do you have any pre-game rituals and routines?
Before the game when I warm-up, I don’t wear my basketball uniform. It’s something I’ve always done, I just go to the bathroom after the warm-up and only then do I put my basketball uniform on.
What advice would you give to young women looking up to you?
The main thing is to have the courage to start. Regardless of whether you think you’ll be good at it, or won’t be so good at it, the main thing is being able to start and giving it a try first because once you start, then things will get easier and you’ll get better.
For more information and to purchase tickets for the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022, visit the official website here. You can also follow the journey on the event’s social media accounts – @FIBAWWC on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org