World·CBC in South Korea

Rink rescue: RCMP officer helps save Korean boy's life at Olympic hockey game

The biggest save of the Canada versus Czech Republic hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang didn't necessarily happen on the ice.

'If there's any dangerous situation, we'll be there,' Frank Martineau and South Korean partner Yon Gyu Min say

B.C. RCMP officer Frank Martineau, right, is presented with a plaque of appreciation after helping to save an eight-year-old boy's life Saturday at the exit area of the arena where Canada was playing Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (Gangwon Provincial Police Agency)

The biggest save of the Canada versus Czech Republic hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang didn't necessarily happen on the ice.

B.C. RCMP officer Frank Martineau and his South Korean partner Yon Gyu Min, part of an international security team during the men's preliminary-round game on Saturday, were hailed as heroes after helping to revive a South Korean boy who was choking.

Fans cheered as Saturday's men's preliminary-round match was decided by a shootout, with Czech Republic beating Canada. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The eight-year-old was eating a piece of tteok-bokki — a traditional Korean sticky rice cake — when he started fighting for air, according to police in Gangwon Province.

The child collapsed and lost consciousness in front of an exit gate around 1:30 p.m. That's when Martineau and Min, a police officer from the Korean National Police Agency, leapt to action. The Heimlich manoeuvre was performed to dislodge the food in the boy's throat.

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Gangwon Province's police Chief Won Kyung-hwan presented both officers with a certificate of appreciation.

The pair are part of an international security presence providing venue security and made up of police personnel from 16 countries, according to Korean news outlets.

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'The right people there at the right time'

Martineau, wearing a Team Canada jacket, can be seen in a photo being presented with a plaque by chief Won.

Martineau and Min said their action was critical to saving the boy's life before emergency services could arrive.

"If there's any dangerous situation, we'll be there," the officers said in a joint statement in Korean.

The boy's parents, whose family name was given as Jeong, thanked the Canadian and the South Korean officer for saving their son's life.

Martineau, left, and South Korean police partner Yon Gyu Min were working as part of an international policing team during the game. (Gangwon Provincial Police Agency)

Martineau said there's no reason to thank him. He said the Olympics should reserve their adulation for the athletes as the stars in Pyeongchang.

Reached by text message by CBC's Nil Köksal, Martineau said that as a member of the RCMP deployed overseas, "I would like to remain focused on my mission and not take any spotlight away from the Canadian athletes competing in these 2018 Olympic Winter Games."

He added: "Just know that the actions taken by myself and my KNPA (Korean National Police Agency) partner were no different than what I would expect from any trained person or emergency services professional, given the circumstances."

Nancy Park, a spokesperson with the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, said both officers stressed they were both just doing their jobs, and were examples of "incredible teamwork between Canada and South Korea."

"I think this was a matter of having the right people there at the right time, at the right place, and this was great teamwork between not just on the field of play, but all across the Games," Park said.

The child was taken to a nearby hospital and is now back at home, recovering well, she said.

The Canadian Olympic team didn't fare so well, losing the game in a shootout.


Matt Kwong


Matt Kwong was the Washington-based correspondent for CBC News. He previously reported for CBC News as an online journalist in New York and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at: @matt_kwong

With files from CBC's Nil Köksal and Stephanie Jenzer