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Snowboard prospect Lee Sang-ho eyes Olympic medal

2016/12/19 16:09

INCHEON, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean snowboard prospect Lee Sang-ho said Monday he's aiming for a medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics at home, buoyed by his recent performance.

The alpine snowboarder posted the best result by a Korean ever at an International Ski Federation (FIS) Snowboard World Cup last week, finishing fourth in the parallel giant slalom on Thursday in Carezza, Italy.

After arriving home Monday, the 21-year-old said the top-four finish was a huge boost to his confidence.

"I accomplished my goal so early in the season, and I can feel that I am closer to a medal at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics," Lee told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "The biggest gain from this World Cup was that I gained confidence for the upcoming competitions."

   Lee finished just behind world No. 1 Radoslav Yankov of Bulgaria to finish fourth in Italy. Then two days later, Lee ranked 12th in parallel slalom in Cortina d'Ampezzo, also in Italy.

South Korean alpine snowboarder Lee Sang-ho speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 19, 2016. (Yonhap) South Korean alpine snowboarder Lee Sang-ho speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport on Dec. 19, 2016. (Yonhap)

"I was a bit disappointed with my second race (in parallel slalom)," Lee said. "I did the best I could but the others were just faster. But I am happy with how far I've come so far. There are still more World Cups and world championships left this season. I think I am capable of winning a World Cup medal, but I can't afford to get too cocky."

   Lee said the biggest difference between previous seasons and this season is his mental approach.

"Last year, I had the techniques all down, but I wasn't able to maintain my concentration at times," he said. "I received some help from a mental coach. My focus has improved and I've become a lot steadier mentally."

   South Korea has not won an Olympic medal in snow events. And with the country's first Winter Games fast approaching, Lee's solid start to the season bodes well for South Korea's future on the snow.

"I think I can realistically dream of winning an Olympic medal," Lee said. "There's no doubt in my mind I am capable, in terms of technique and mental fortitude. I just need to gain more experience in international competitions."