S. Korean skeleton athlete confident of strong race at Olympics
By Yoo Jee-ho
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, March 17 (Yonhap) -- After falling just short of a title at home track on Friday, South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin said he's confident of an even stronger race at next year's Olympics at the same venue.
Yun finished second to Martins Dukurs of Latvia by 0.01 second at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup at Alpensia Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Olympics lying some 180 kilometers east of Seoul.
Yun had a combined time of 1:41.52 in two runs. Yun had the best time in the field in the first run, with 50.69 seconds, 0.18 faster than Dukurs, but the Latvian topped the competition in the second run with 50.64 seconds, 0.19 better than the South Korean.
South Korea's Yun Sung-bin reacts after finishing in second place by 0.01 second in the men's skeleton race at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup at Alpensia Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 17, 2017. (Yonhap)
This was the final World Cup of the season and Dukurs also beat Yun for the overall title for the second straight season.
It was yet another impressive season for Yun, a 22-year-old considered South Korea's best hope for its first Olympic sliding medal. But after Friday's race, Yun said he could only feel "disappointment."
"I expected the race to be tight," Yun said. "But I am really disappointed it ended this way."
Yun insisted, however, he leaves Alpensia with his confidence fully intact.
"After this race, I am convinced that I will have a good result if I continue to work hard over the next year," he said. "I'll try to make the best of the remaining time and make sure I'll have a flawless race at the Olympics."
Yun skipped the world championships last month to spend more time training at Alpensia's new track. In sliding sports, familiarity with every nook and cranny of a given track is considered crucial to success. It's likely no coincidence that the past two men's Olympic skeleton champions have come from the host nations, while Dukurs, one of the most decorated skeleton athletes with five world championships, settled for silver medals on both occasions.
Yun would like nothing better than to keep the streak going for home athletes.
"I think I got to slide down this track maybe 20 more times than others," Yun said. "I think it definitely helped. Even though the season is over, I'll go right back to training. I will have to spend as much time here as I can."
Yun Sung-bin of South Korea (L) holds a trophy for finishing second overall in the men's skeleton for the 2016-17 International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup season at Alpensia Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 17, 2017. (Yonhap)