Yul Moldauer is representing Team USA and Asian Americans on the men’s gymnastics team at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. He is a Colorado resident born in South Korea.
Moldauer grew up on a farm in Colorado, according to his website. He is a college student at the University of Oklahoma, where he majors in finance.
The 24-year-old first-time Olympian spoke in a video interview about his ethnic background and his pride in representing the United States. He finished 6th in the men’s floor exercise event final.
“This is definitely a dream come true. I think about it and I just… can’t stop but shake my head,” he said in the interview.
Here’s what you need to know:
Moldauer Was Adopted Into a Colorado Family & His Adoptive Parents Named Him After a Bald Actor Because He Had Little Hair
Moldauer’s lack of hair as an infant was a trait his adoptive parents immediately picked up on, according to his Olympic athlete profile. Although he has quite a head of hair these days, he was nearly bald as an infant and his parents decided to name him after a bald actor, Yul Brynner, his profile said. His birth mother named him Kyung-Tae, but his adoptive parents decided to call him by a new name, his profile said.
“He was named Kyung-Tae by his birth mother, but his adoptive parents began calling him Yul when he arrived in the United States of America. Moldauer had very little hair when he was a baby, so they decided to name him after bald actor Yul Brynner,” the profile said.
His adopted parents are Peter and Orsa Moldauer, and they adopted him when he was less than one year old, his website says.
He was born prematurely, and doctors expected that he would have health and developmental problems, according to The Oklahoman. His mother in South Korea was chemically dependent, the article said, and his adopted parents were told to sign a paper acknowledging that he would likely not be “a productive adult.”
Moldauer Spoke About His Korean Heritage & Asian-American Hate in a Video Interview
Moldauer spoke about his background during a video interview, saying his life could have turned out much differently if he had not been adopted into a family that supported his love of gymnastics and channeled his “intensity.” His dad, Peter Moldauer, spoke about the turnaround Yul Moldauer experienced as a young child when he discovered gymnastics.
“He needed a place to put that intensity. And that’s what gymnastics provided,” Peter Moldauer said, according to Yul Moldauer’s gymnastics athlete profile.
Yul Moldauer said in the video interview that representing the United States is “special” to him, saying the country gave him “a second life” through his adoption.
“I actually sit back and think about that quite often,” he said in the interview. “I’m like, ‘What if I never got adopted, or what if I didn’t get adopted into the family I was given? What would my life look like?”
Moldauer told the news outlet he has faced racial discrimination and recalled a time he said a woman told him to “go back to China.”
He said in the interview his parents have been supportive in both his athletic career and in the times he has faced racial discrimination. They tell him not to listen to bystanders and offer words of encouragement, he said.
“We should look at each other as…who we are, not what we look like,” he said. “For me, I wanted to speak up about it, not because I wanted people to feel sorry for me or reach out. I wanted people to be aware that this stuff happens to anyone – Asians, African-Americans, Indian-Americans – like anyone that just doesn’t look like the typical American can feel uncomfortable at times, and to me, I think that needs to change.”