(ATTN: UPDATES with Lim's remarks in paras 6-8)
SEOUL, June 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pianist Lim Yunchan has won the top prize in a prestigious international piano competition in the United States, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the 60-year-old contest, its website showed Sunday.
Lim, the 18-year-old student of the Korea National University of Arts, clinched the gold in the finals of the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition that closed in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday (local time).
The silver and bronze medals went to the 31-year-old Russian pianist Anna Geniushene and the 28-year-old Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni, respectively.
A cash prize of US$100,000 will be given to the overall winner, with guarantees of three years of international tours and career management.
While four Korean pianists reached the semifinals, only Lim advanced to the final stage, along with five other finalists. During the five-day final round, Lim played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor and Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor.
"My heart feels heavy ... but I will work to become a pianist who strives more," Lim told Yonhap News Agency over the phone.
Asked about the rave reviews of his passionate performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3, the young musician said he had no idea it would get such a reaction both online and offline.
"I just tried my best to deliver to the audience the legacy that Rachmaninov left behind," he said.
Born in February 2004, Lim is the youngest gold medalist at the Van Cliburn contest named after the renowned U.S. pianist, which lets pianists aged 18 to 31 compete. The 2009 winner Haochen Zhang of China and the 1969 champion Cristina Ortiz of Brazil finished first at the age of 19.
The 18-year-old is the second South Korean to win the top prize in a row at the U.S. piano competition following Sunwoo Yekwon at the previous event held in 2017.
Lim also took two more prizes at the competition -- the Carla and Kelly Thompson Audience Award and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work.
Semifinalist Shin Changyong won the Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award.
Lim started to get international attention at age 14 when he won second prize and the Chopin Special Award in his first-ever competition, the Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists in 2018.
In the same year, Lim won the third-place prize and the audience prize in the Cooper International Competition. In 2019, he became the youngest to win Korea's lsang Yun International Competition.
The Van Cliburn competition was launched in 1962 in honor of the American pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958.
The quadrennial event was originally set to take place in 2021 but was delayed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.