The 18th Winter Universiade was the second World University Games held in Asia but only the first held outside of Japan, and the South Korean hosts would more than live up to expectations.
The 1997 Universiade was hosted by two separate cities, one for the snow events (Muju) and one for the ice competitions (Chonju).
Some 1,406 athletes and officials from 48 countries converged in Chonju-Muju and were covered by a record 1,203 journalists from 125 newspapers and agencies.
The athletes were in top shape, judging by the amount of records broken, in particular in speed skating, where no fewer than 15 Universiade records fell.
Japan, which was a year out from hosting the Olympic Winter Games Nagano 1998, reached the podium more than any other nation, taking home 9 gold, 9 silver and 7 bronze medals. But it was Slovenia that put in the most surprising performance, bursting onto the scene with 7 gold, 4 silver, and 3 bronze medals, good enough for fourth overall behind Japan, Russia and China.
All 14 of Slovenia’s medals came in alpine skiing. In fact, Slovenian athletes medalled in all but one alpine ski event (nine out of 10 competitions) at Chonju-Muju. The only event they missed out on was the women’s slalom, where they finished 4th and 5th.
In their downtime, the athletes did everything from consult local fortune tellers to, of course, study. And eat. A lot.
Thirty-four cooks prepared meals for 1,200 people per day. A quarter ton of beef was prepared daily, while over the course of the Universiade 73,000 bottles of water, 24,000 cans of coke, 166,000 cups of coffee and 27,000 cans of beer were consumed.
The Americans in particular were prone to hitting the books after competing. Six alpine skiers from the University of Colorado annexed a room in the Athletes’ Village for just that purpose, and they were able to prove that it is possible to balance the books and the ski boots. “My goal was to study every day at the Universiade,” said Kate Davenport, who finished in the top five four times in Chonju-Muju (winning bronze in the women’s downhill). “We take our studies very seriously. In my university, the ski team has the best marks of all the sports on campus. And we want to keep it that way.”
48 Countries participating
877 Athletes participating