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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee