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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there