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Kool runnings! S. Korean sledders ready to surprise world at PyeongChang Olympics

December 15, 2015
Two-man bobsleigh team pilot Won Yun-jong, left, and brakeman Seo Young-woo react as they cross the finish line in their final run at the Sochi Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center, Monday. The team finished 18th overall, the highest ever for Korean bobsledders. (AP-Yonhap)

Two-man bobsleigh team pilot Won Yun-jong, left, and brakeman Seo Young-woo react as they cross the finish line in their final run at the 2014 Sochi Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center. The team finished 18th overall, the highest ever for Korean bobsledders. (AP)

INCHEON (Yonhap) — Coming off strong performances in recent international competitions, a trio of emerging South Korean sledders said Tuesday they’re ready to surprise the world at the next Winter Olympics at home.

The bobsleigh duo of pilot Won Yun-jong and brakeman Seo Young-woo returned home after winning two historic bronze medals in three International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup competitions. Joining them was skeleton’s Yun Sung-bin, who also won a World Cup bronze medal last weekend in Konigssee, Germany.

Won and Seo, who finished 18th in the two-man event at last year’s Sochi Winter Games, South Korea’s best performance in Olympic bobsleigh, have been even better in 2015-2016. At the first World Cup stop in Altenberg, Germany, last month, the South Koreans finished only 0.02 second behind the second-place tandem of Oskars Melbardis and Daumants Dreiskens of Latvia. No South Korean team had won any World Cup medal before Won and Seo.

In the second stop in Winterberg, also in Germany earlier this month, the Latvian duo again finished second ahead of Won and Seo, who were 0.21 second slower. The South Koreans finished in sixth place at the third World Cup event in Konigssee, Germany, last week.

Won told reporters at Incheon International Airport that the results exceeded his own expectations.

“I felt we could get to maybe fifth place, and we did better than we’d expected,” he said with a smile. “It’s all thanks to our coaching staff.”

Seo chimed in: “We receive medals for finishing in the top six, but I think getting inside the top three is the real deal. We will build on this run and set our goals even higher than before.”

Yun Sung-bin, who won a silver and two bronze medals during last year’s World Cup series, has added a bronze this season, as he continues to work on improving his start.

“I worked harder on starts than anything else during the summer, and it feels great to see those efforts bear fruits,” Yun said. “If you fall behind by 0.1 second at the start, then you will finish 0.3 second slower (than the competition).”

All three athletes have set their sights on the ultimate competition, the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in South Korean resort town of PyeongChang, where they may have an outside chance of winning a medal. They said they will have a built-in advantage at home as they will have more familiarity with the competition venue.

“Historically, athletes from host countries have won a lot of medals in our sport,” Won Yun-jong said. “Once the new track is finished (in February next year), we will get in hundreds of reps there so we can post great results.”

 

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