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(Olympics) Yun Sung-bin: 1st Asian to win medal in skeleton

All Headlines 12:00 February 16, 2018

By Joo Kyung-don

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- Yun Sung-bin became the first Asian to stand on the podium in an Olympic skeleton competition with his gold medal run Friday, but six years ago, he was a high school student who didn't even know about the sport.

Yun, born in May 1994, was a normal student at Silim High School in 2012, who just had good physical talent and was looking to go to college. It was his physical education teacher Kim Young-tae who pushed Yun to go for the national skeleton team trial after receiving a call from Kang Kwang-bae, a four-time Olympian who is considered the pioneer of South Korean sledding sports.

In his first trial for the national team, Yun was 15th among 30 contestants, but Kang, the only South Korean to compete in all three sliding sports -- bobsleigh, luge and skeleton -- at the Winter Games, decided to make Yun a skeleton star, and it turned out to be the right choice.

After becoming a Korea National Sport University student, Yun began tough training to become a skeleton slider and just three months later, he made the national team.

During that time, to increase his weight needed to gain more speed on the sled, Yun reportedly ate eight meals a day, and he gained more than 10 kilograms.

Yun made his international debut in November 2012 and stood at 70th place in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) rankings. He, however, quickly climbed to the top with the help of national team head coach Lee Yong and British coach Richard Bromley, who is also a sled maker.

In January 2014, Yun posted his first international win at the Intercontinental Cup in Whistler, Canada, and one month later, he finished 16th in his Winter Olympics debut in Sochi, Russia. He was ranked 22th in the 2013-14 season IBSF rankings.

Yun started to make his name internationally from the 2014-15 season. He made his first IBSF World Cup podium finish in December 2014 in Calgary, Canada, and jumped to No. 5 in the IBSF rankings.

Next season, Yun made history by becoming the first South Korean to win a World Cup medal. He topped the event in St. Moritz in Switzerland in February 2016 after edging his idol Martins Dukurs of Latvia.

Yun emerged as the biggest threat for Dukurs from there. He took silver at the IBSF Championships and finished the 2015-16 season as the world's No. 2., both behind Dukurs.

In December 2016, Yun earned his second World Cup gold in Whistler, Canada, and had another solid season. But again, he was behind Dukurs, who had his eighth consecutive overall World Cup title.

But in the 2017-18 season, Yun finally managed to overcome Dukurs. Yun collected five gold and two silver from seven International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cups that he competed this season, while Dukurs only bagged two gold and three silver.

Even though he skipped the season's last World Cup in Konigssee, Germany, Yun was able to claim the overall World Cup title and become the world No. 1 player, ending Dukurs' reign for the last eight seasons.

Yun said he skipped the season's last world cup because he wanted to have more practice on the ice at Olympic Sliding Centre, the venue for sliding sports at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Before he was about to take part in his second Winter Games, Yun said he treats the Olympics as any other international competition. And it turned out that he wasn't bluffing.

With his gold medal run at Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, Yun proved his No. 1 status and made history by becoming the first Asian Olympic medalist in skeleton.

It was also the moment that Yun opened a new page in the South Korean winter sports history. Since South Korea first appeared at the Winter Olympics in 1948, all 55 of its medals, including the medals won at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, have come from skating sports. He is now the first South Korean to have won an Olympic medal without wearing skates.

South Korea's Yun Sung-bin competes in the men's skeleton at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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