The Words of the Jenkins Family

This is what it is all about - Yong Sung Leal Gives Living Testimony

Michael Jenkins
May 29, 2003

Dear Family,

We are deeply grateful and inspired by the Yong Sung Leal. Here is an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that demonstrates the winning attitude of a champion who values Blessed Marriage more than anything else.

We sincerely thank Bento and Kimiko and all their family for Yong Sung. The American Blessed Families are proud of you Yong Sung and grateful to you for bringing joy to our True Parents. We pray that you and Lan will become like True Parents and will build a blessed family that will shine a light for all the world to follow.

In Gratitude,

Rev. Michael Jenkins President Family Federation for World Peace and Unification

San Lorenzo runner wanted a wedding more than a track title SARS scare postpones trip to altar for long-distance runner

Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Yong-Sung Leal of Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo established himself as a dominant distance runner, perhaps a future Olympian, when he won three state titles as a sophomore and junior.

But this year, he faced major hurdles in his efforts to recapture glory on the track. First there were injuries. Then there was the matter of his arranged marriage in South Korea, which was scheduled for the same day as the qualifying meet for the state championships.

But fate, in the form of the worldwide SARS epidemic, intervened. His marriage ceremony was postponed because of SARS fears, and he was able to take part in Saturday's North Coast Section Bay Shore track meet.

So instead of getting married on Saturday, he was on the James Logan High School track, where he surprised almost everyone with an outstanding performance.

Still, Leal's priorities are unchanged: Even though it is important to him to try to regain the 3,200-meter title he won as a sophomore, it pales in significance compared to his marriage.

A devout member of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Leal had fully supported the idea of an arranged marriage, even when it appeared it would curtail his running career. He had forsaken dating and school dances to save himself for his wedding partner, not an easy chore for an engaging teenager with striking good looks. Girls flock to him after races, asking for his autograph.

"Sometimes I think, 'Hey, that girl's not bad,' " he said, "but I already knew this way works because of my parents."

Leal said he'd seen how content his parents -- his father is from the East Bay, his mother from Japan -- were in their marriage, one arranged by the Rev. Moon himself and one of more than 2,000 such marriages that took place on the same day in 1982 at Madison Square Garden.

Looking For A Mate

Last year, Leal began encouraging his parents to seek out a marriage partner for him. His name and picture appeared on a Web site for eligible members of the church looking for a mate, and Kate Tsubata, who lives in Maryland, responded that she had a daughter, Lan, seeking a spouse. After the parents exchanged several e-mails to determine compatibility, Lan and her family came to visit Leal's family on Jan. 23, a month after Leal's 18th birthday. Leal had never before seen even a picture of Lan.

"When she walked through the door, I said, 'Wow, this is the person,' " he said.

That day, after further family discussions and conversations between Yong- Sung and Lan, it was determined they would marry. He informed his track coach in March that he would have to miss the Bay Shore meet, precluding him from competing in the state meet. Leal never seriously considered Lan's suggestion that they postpone their wedding to accommodate his running schedule.

"It's much more important than running a few laps," Leal said.

SARS Enters The Picture

But then things changed dramatically, though not by the means Leal would have preferred.

"I would have sacrificed going to the state meet and everything else for SARS not to have ever happened," Leal said, "but since it happened I'm just taking it as it comes. It's kind of sad that I benefit from something so sad. Maybe God said, 'We can make something good out of this.' "

Leal did his part Saturday, when he won his race. As he approached the finish line, one question remained: Would he collapse into a gasping heap at the finish, as he had three times before in winning efforts at the state Division II cross-country championship as a sophomore and a junior, as well as when he won the state 3,200 meters as a sophomore?

"He just drops to the ground, spit all over his face; it's not pretty," said Arroyo track coach Susan Guinee. "Everybody thinks he needs hydration, but officials have come to understand to just let him alone, and he'll be fine in 20 minutes or so."

Leal even cries at the end sometimes, squeezing every bit of effort out of his body. "If you don't see me collapse in the state championships," he said, "something is wrong."

Leal becomes the wild card in this weekend's Meet of Champions in Berkeley and in the following weekend's state meet in Cerritos.

Since setting the national sophomore record for 5,000 meters in July 2001, he did not compete on the track again until four weeks ago. On Saturday, in just his third track race since the summer of 2001, Leal ran 9:08.48, eight seconds off his state-winning time of 2001, but the best mark in the Bay Area this season and nearly a minute better than his time of May 1.

"When he ran as a sophomore," said Keith Conning, prep editor at California Track and Running News, "people said he was going to be one of the best ever. Now, after all the injuries, everyone is wondering."

Injuries Bring On Anxiety

An injury to the hip area sustained during the world cross-country competition in early 2002 wiped out his junior track season. Subsequent problems in both feet further delayed his return. He kept his anxiety in check,

practicing the message he preaches in his music. A guitarist in a band, Leal is a devotee of hardcore, a loud and fast cousin of punk. For Leal and the music he writes, the message is perseverance, the theme of his running as well.

"He feels like running is his mission, but if God tells him that's not his mission, he would stop," said Lan Tsubata, also 18. "He's just pure when he runs, pure of heart."

Religion also affects Leal's personal coach, Mike Exton. Exton seldom sees his pupil's accomplishments in person. As a Seventh-day Adventist, Exton cannot attend track meets on Saturday, instead watching Leal's races on Sunday on videotape shot by Leal's father. Exton is helping Leal try to regain the form he had as a sophomore, calling on Leal's mental toughness that befits his name, which means Brave Castle in Korean.

"He defies pain," said Rich Gonzalez, an editor at the prep track Web site "He challenges other runners by sort of saying, 'Do you want to endure the pain with me?' Most don't."

Leal pushed himself beyond expectations Saturday, the day he was scheduled to marry. And there might be signs that he has more to give -- this time, he didn't collapse at the finish line.

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