Has father won an Olympic prize: his long lost son?

But the current winter games in Turin have served another extraordinary purpose: as a possible re-uniter of a top American skier with his long-lost birth-parents living half a world away.

Last week, Toby Dawson, a Korean-American with Elvis-sized sideburns and daredevil skills to match, won the bronze medal in the men's freestyle moguls. His heroics made headlines in the US. In distant Busan, South Korea, they created a sensation.

After watching the event, friends and relatives of Kim Jae-su called him to say that Dawson looked exactly like the son Kim had lost in 1981, when the two-year-old boy became separated from his mother in the town's market. His father never set eyes on him again. Until, perhaps, now.

"I looked at the pictures in the papers and confirmed it myself, the 52-year-old told the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. "There is no doubt this is the son I lost 25 years ago." And the circumstantial evidence cannot lightly be set aside.

For one thing, the toddler who became Toby Dawson was found near the same marketplace. The person who found him left him outside a police station. After his parents could not be found, he was placed in an orphanage, where he was adopted by Americans Mike and Deborah Dawson, ski instructors at the US winter sports mecca of Vail, Colorado.

Kim and his wife, meanwhile, had searched everywhere for their tiny son. "I didn't think reporting it to the police would be of any help, so I went around looking for him myself," Kim said.

The couple combed the orphanages and markets of Busan, but progress was slow. They could only do their searching on days off from work. Of very modest means, they had to get around on foot or by bus. By the time they had covered every possibility, the boy was 8,000 miles away at a new home in the US.

Worse, the disaster led to fights between Kim and his wife, and ultimately to their divorce. South Korea's bureaucracy added insult to injury. The couple never filed a missing persons report, Kim said. "So seven or eight years ago we got his summons to present himself for physical examination for military duty."

In the meantime, the boy now called Toby did what almost every one else did in his new home town in the Rockies: he learnt to ski.

Disorientated and traumatised when he arrived in the US, the boy used skiing as a means of expressing himself. "I was definitely more aggressive in that area of my life because I was so shy otherwise," Dawson told NBC last week, explaining how he was drawn to moguls - where self-confidence is not an option, but essential to perform at all.

By 2004 he had made his breakthrough, winning three World Cup events. For fans he was simply "Awesome Dawson". For lovers of ski movies his fearless, take-no-prisoners style earned him spots in a host of documentaries by the acclaimed film-maker Warren Miller.

But all the while, curiosity about his roots grew. Each summer of late he has spent time as a counsellor at the Korean Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families, designed to promote awareness and pride in Korean culture. He also posted photos of himself as a little child on his website, in the hope his real parents might identify themselves. "I've been struggling with this a lot," Dawson said last week. "Many people have been asking me about this. I have had people claim they are my biological parents; I've had random calls. So I'll take this process very slowly - we'll see."

But the pace may be about to speed up dramatically. Back in Busan, Kim said he could hardly wait to see the ski star he insists is his son. He says he is willing to undergo a DNA test to prove his paternity. If that proves positive, then his own and Toby Dawson's long search will be over.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before