Geum Yi

Skeleton prospect Yoon raises Sochi hopes

January 7, 2014
Yoon Sung-bin

Yoon Sung-bin

By Kim Tong-hyung

Skeleton, which requires individual athletes to fly down a frozen track on a tiny sled, is a minor sport that had rarely registered with the public’s consciousness here. But 20-year-old Yoon Sung-bin now has the nation paying attention.

Yoon, who has already qualified for next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, finished first with a combined time of 1 minute and 45.73 seconds at the sixth Confederation Cup event of the season at Whistler, Canada, on Tuesday (KST). This represented the country’s first-ever skeleton gold medal at an international event and inspired his coach to talk glowingly about his prospects in Russia.

Lee Han-sin, a 28-year-old compatriot of Yoon, finished 12th at Whistler with a combined time of 1 minute and 47.61 seconds, which was also better than expected.

As an athlete, Yoon appears to be peaking at the perfect time. He won a silver and two bronze medals at the America Cup competitions in November, and two silvers at the Confederations Cup event in December.

Yoon’s personal goal is to keep getting better and become a serious medal contender by the time of the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held at the Korean ski resort of PyeongChang. However, Yoon’s growth has been much faster than anticipated, according to his coach Cho In-ho, who expects his pupil to turn a lot of heads in Sochi.

At Whistler, Yoon was clocked at 52.88 seconds in his first run and 52.85 seconds in his second. This was comparable to the performance of German athlete Frank Rommel at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when he averaged 52.85 seconds in his four races to finish seventh overall. While Yoon may not have a realistic shot at any hardware in Sochi, a top-10 finish seems within the realm of possibility.

”First of all, Yoon is a gifted athlete. He works hard, too. He weighed 75 kilograms last year, but is now around 87 kilograms, which shows his efforts to add muscle and bulk,’’ Cho said.

”Yoon is a bigger athlete now and that allows him to ride lighter sleds. This has really improved the quickness of his starts.’’

Yoon’s 4.59-second start in both runs at Whistler represented the quickest of all athletes there.