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(PyeongChang Prospects) S. Korean skeleton slider looking to become true world No. 1 with Olympic gold

송고시간2018/01/17 06:30

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SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- Since South Korea first appeared at the Winter Olympic Games in 1948, all 53 of its medals have come from skating sports, with 42 of them earned by short trackers.

While short track and speed skating are still considered gold mines for South Korea, many local fans at the PyeongChang Olympics are expecting Yun Sung-bin to win a gold medal in the men's skeleton.

Yun is trying to become the first South Korean to win a Winter Olympic medal away from ice. And there's a good chance that he will achieve the feat.

With the Winter Olympics less than a month away, Yun, a virtual no-name just a few years ago, has emerged as the heavy gold medal favorite in the men's skeleton. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the world after showing strong form throughout the season.

This file photo, taken Jan. 14, 2018, shows South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin speaking to reporters at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap) This file photo, taken Jan. 14, 2018, shows South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin speaking to reporters at Incheon International Airport. (Yonhap)

Yun knows many South Koreans will expect a gold medal from him, but he said he doesn't feel pressure.

"I don't think I need to feel pressure," Yun said Sunday. "I think of people's attention as support. An Olympic medal is my dream."

   Yun has so far won five golds and two silvers in seven International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cups this season.

After opening the 2017-18 World Cup season with a silver medal in Lake Placid in November, Yun reeled off three consecutive victories in Park City in the United States, Whistler in Canada and Winterberg in Germany, from mid-November to early December.

Yun had a runner-up finish in Austria's Innsbruck last month but returned to the top of the podium in Altenberg, Germany, which is considered the most challenging track on the World Cup circuit, on Jan. 5. He then grabbed another gold in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last Friday with a track record.

With such achievements, Yun has amassed 1,545 points in the IBSF rankings, 115 points above his biggest rival, Martins Dukurs of Latvia.

Dukurs, considered by many to be the greatest skeleton slider in history, has claimed the last eight overall World Cup titles, but the 33-year-old Latvian isn't living up to his reputation this season, having collected only two gold, two silver and one bronze medal at the World Cups.

Yun finished second overall behind Dukurs in each of the past two seasons. But with the Olympics around the corner, Yun is now the top dog and will be the main challenge to Dukurs, who has settled for silver in each of the past two Winter Games.

In this photo, taken by the EPA on Jan. 12, 2018, Yun Sung-bin competes in the men's skeleton at the IBSF World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Yonhap) In this photo, taken by the EPA on Jan. 12, 2018, Yun Sung-bin competes in the men's skeleton at the IBSF World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland. (Yonhap)

While some fans claim that Yun is now a better slider than Dukurs, the 23-year-old South Korean said it will all come down to the PyeongChang Olympics.

"I think it's too early to conclude that I've surpassed Dukurs," he said. "You have to see the Olympics result."

   Yun started skeleton in 2012 and earned his first international win two years later at the Intercontinental Cup. In 2014, he experienced his first Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and settled for 16th place. His first World Cup gold came in February 2016, when he beat Dukurs.

For his first Olympic gold, Yun decided to skip the season's final World Cup in Konigssee, Germany, this week so he can practice more at the Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, before the Olympics. In sliding sports, familiarity with a given track is considered crucial to success.

"I think I've successfully finished my tests for the Olympics," he said. "I will give my utmost effort in PyeongChang."

  

In this photo, taken by the EPA on Jan. 5, 2018, Yun Sung-bin reacts during the men's skeleton medals ceremony at the IBSF World Cup in Altenberg, Germany. (Yonhap) In this photo, taken by the EPA on Jan. 5, 2018, Yun Sung-bin reacts during the men's skeleton medals ceremony at the IBSF World Cup in Altenberg, Germany. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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