Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2019 —
He was the youngest and only enlisted member from a team of 14 service members from all branches of the Department of Defense on the U.S. swim team to compete at the 2019 CISM Military World Games.
His journey started by meeting, training and bonding with the rest of the team in San Diego the week before competition.
“I was nervous at first,” Yoo said. “I wasn’t sure if I really belonged there with all these amazing athletes. But from the start, my teammates were very welcoming and encouraging.”
Yoo enjoyed the warmth of California and took advantage of the location by training in the ocean.
“It was completely different from Idaho,” Yoo said. “We were focused and serious, but at the same time it also felt like a vacation. I got to do what I love in a warm, beautiful place.”
After spending a week in San Diego, Yoo and the rest of his team flew across the world to Wuhan, China, where the competition would be held.
A grand opening ceremony kicked off the event and Yoo jumped at the opportunity to walk out into the stadium to represent the United States.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Yoo said. “It was amazing to see all the different countries represented there and, also, to represent team USA myself.”
Yoo raced in the 100 meter free, 50 meter breast and 4x100 medley relay. This was Yoo’s first time competing at an international level.
This level of competition comes with live television coverage and fans watching in the stadium. Yoo took full advantage of this opportunity.
“I had to have some fun out there,” Yoo said. “I always see athletes having ‘their thing’ whenever their name is announced so I wanted to do that too. When they announced my name before my race I licked my thumb and pinky fingers and swiped my eyebrows. The crowd went wild! It was a surreal moment and one of my favorite memories.”
Then it was finally time to swim.
“It was a tough competition and I feel like I could’ve performed better,” Yoo said. “But my teammates always reminded me that I deserved to be there and will be proud of me if I do my best.”
Yoo didn’t win any medals this year, but that didn't mean he didn’t get anything out of it.
“All my teammates were officers and they shared so much wisdom with me,” Yoo said. “I’ve always wanted to commission, but wasn’t hard set on achieving that goal. They taught me that whether it is swimming or commissioning to believe in myself and give it my all.”
So thanks to this opportunity, Yoo has renewed aspirations to become an officer and to train harder to go back to the 2020 CISM Military World Games and place.
“It was an honor to represent team USA and compete alongside my teammates,” Yoo said. “I’ll never forget the experience and the people. I’m so thankful for everyone who has helped me along the way.”