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(PyeongChang Prospects) Ex-junior cross-country star Kim Magnus eyes impressive Olympic debut

송고시간2018/01/16 06:30

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SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- As with many rising young athletes, next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics will mark a fresh start for cross-country skier Kim Magnus.

For Kim -- who won a gold, a silver and a bronze at the 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games -- the first Winter Olympics in South Korea will also be his first Olympiad as an adult.

Kim's given name, Magnus, admittedly comes across as unconventional, especially in a country that is deeply homogeneous. The child of a Norwegian father and a South Korean mother, Kim used to hold dual citizenship in both his parents' countries. But in 2015, the skier announced he would represent his mother's land in major events, including at PyeongChang.

"As a Korean, I have patriotism and I thought it would be meaningful (to represent South Korea) since the PyeongChang Olympics will be held in Korea," Kim said back in 2015, explaining his decision to represent his mother's homeland.

Korea is still a relative newcomer when it comes to cross-country skiing. The nation has competed at international cross-country events since the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics in 1960 but trails far behind leading European nations.

In this file photo, South Korean cross-country skier Kim Magnus poses with his gold medal won in the men's 1.4km sprint classic at the Asian Winter Games at Shirahatayama Open Stadium in Sapporo, Japan, on Feb. 20, 2017. (Yonhap) In this file photo, South Korean cross-country skier Kim Magnus poses with his gold medal won in the men's 1.4km sprint classic at the Asian Winter Games at Shirahatayama Open Stadium in Sapporo, Japan, on Feb. 20, 2017. (Yonhap)

But in 2016, Kim became the first skier representing South Korea to win a gold medal at a major international event, winning two golds and one silver at the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics, giving a major confidence boost to the country for its future snow competitions.

In February last year, the 19-year-old went on to capture three medals, including a gold in the 1.4-kilometer individual sprint classic, at the Sapporo Asian Winter Games in Japan. The Busan native, who speaks in a fluent Gyeongsang dialect, became an instant star athlete among the Korean national squad and was chosen as the flag bearer for the national team when returning home.

"I don't necessarily think I've gotten closer to an Olympic medal after the Asian Games, but it's all part of the process," said Kim last February after arriving from Sapporo.

"It was an unbelievable feeling to accomplish something I'd wanted to for a long time. And gaining confidence was huge," the skier said.

Despite his prodigious performance in junior competitions, Kim's first foray into senior competitions was much tougher than initially expected. Kim finished 75th in the 1.5 km sprint classical event at the Lillehammer World Cup and clocked in at 91st in the same event at another World Cup in Ruka, Finland, in November.

The South Korean cross-country circle is betting big on Kim. But the competitive skiing community is also keeping expectations at a reasonable level -- the consensus being that Kim's real chance at an Olympic medal probably won't come until the 2022 Beijing Winter Games. For Kim, experiencing the big stage next month in PyeongChang could be a big lesson in and of itself.

Some experts, however, have much higher expectations for the 19-year-old skier, considering how Kim has spent most of his practice so far on the slopes of the Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang, the venue for the Olympic snow events.

"Kim Magnus will continue training and competing in Europe for the time being. He'll later travel to Sapporo for his final pre-Olympic training," a representative at Brion Company, Kim's management agency, said.

In this file photo taken Jan. 20, 2017, South Korean cross-country skier Kim Magnus waits the start of an exhibition race in Seoul. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken Jan. 20, 2017, South Korean cross-country skier Kim Magnus waits the start of an exhibition race in Seoul. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr

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