PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- For Yun Sung-bin, his gold medal in the skeleton at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics is not the end of the story.
The 23-year-old South Korean slider said he can show more after the Olympics, aiming to take another gold in the World Championships scheduled to be held next year in Doha, Qatar, as a “top priority.”
“My previous goal was to win the race in the Olympics, and now I’ve done it,” said Yun, who became the first athlete from Asia to ever win a medal in the sliding event, during Wednesday’s press conference at the Main Press Center in PyeongChang.
“Taking another gold medal in the World Championships is my next top priority. No athletes in the skeleton have achieved golds in both the Olympics and the World Championships, and I‘m confident that I can do so,” Yun said. “That’s the only thing in my head for now.”
Yun’s historic gold medal came Friday at Olympic Sliding Center when he crossed the finish line at 50.02 seconds, setting a new track record in his final run. His four-run record marked 3 minutes, 20.55 seconds, a staggering 1.63 seconds ahead of silver medalist Russian Nikita Tregubov. Yun’s longtime idol and rival Latvian Martins Dukurs failed to stand on the podium after finishing fourth.
South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin speaks Wednesday during his press conference at Main Press Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province. (Photo by Bak Se-hwan/The Korea Herald)
In the country where the head-first, face-down sliding sport was little known to the South Korean public until his results came out on Feb. 16, Yun’s rise to stardom as the new “Skeleton Emperor” is sparking interest from abroad as well as home in the winter games.
Last week, Jon Favreau, who directed the first Iron Man movie, called him “Iron Man on ice” on his Twitter account, with a picture of Yun. The skeleton racer wore an Iron Man-like helmet during his four-run races, making him look like the Marvel character.
“I also hoped to see Dukurs earning at least a medal, although I wanted the gold medal badly. In the waiting room, I saw him disappointed (after the race) but he congratulated me for winning, which made me feel bad,” Yun said. “But Dukurs is such a big-hearted person, and he told me to just enjoy the moment.”
The Latvian slider had dominated men’s skeleton for nearly a decade but failed to win any medal in PyeongChang.
Regarding questions about his longterm plan to keep his world No.1 title as a skeleton racer, Yun said he hopes to continue to win the race for at least 10 more years.
“I believe that in skeleton you can be a good athlete for as long as it takes if you manage your physical condition well. I think I can compete at least 10 more years as I will focus on maintaining my physical condition from now on,” Yun said.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)