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(LEAD) (Olympics) Youth Olympic champion reaches PyeongChang podium in surprise run

2018/02/13 23:14

(ATTN: UPDATES with Kim's comments in last para)

By Kim Boram

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 13 (Yonhap) -- Four years ago, then-middle school student Kim Min-seok suddenly emerged in media headlines.

In a national competition in 2014, he finished second in the men's 1,500-meter speed skating event, after Olympic gold medalist Lee Seung-hoon, to grab a berth at the national squad for the 2014-2015 season.

Kim, then 15 years old, was the youngest national skater since the 2000s when the age limit was set at 15.

In the first season, however, he fell short of full-grown skaters in international competitions, as his World Cup ranking was 23rd in the 1,500m distance race.

But among skaters around his age, he was without equal on the long track.

South Korean speed skater Kim Min-seok races in the men's 1,500 meters, at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Feb. 13, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korean speed skater Kim Min-seok races in the men's 1,500 meters, at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Feb. 13, 2018. (Yonhap)

He won the same distance at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and clinched gold at the 2016 Junior World Championships.

From the 2016-2017 season, he started to catch up with senior skaters. He placed 16th in the World Cup rankings and rose to 14th in the next 2017-2018 season heading to the Olympics.

In the 2017 World Single Distances Championships, in particular, he finished 5th in the men's 1,500m event with a time of 1:46.05, just 0.55 seconds behind Dutchman Sven Kramer, who finished third.

Fully ready to make a surprise Olympic debut at PyeongChang in his home country, Kim, now just 18 years old, became the first Asian speed skater in Olympic history to win a medal in the men's 1,500m discipline,

His quest for multiple medals will continue with the team pursuit and the mass start events.

"I think I got one step closer to my nickname, 'skating monster,'" said Kim after the race. "I'll try hard to bring in good results at the upcoming team pursuit event with my teammates."

   brk@yna.co.kr

(END)

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