Nation gets its first bobsleigh gold

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Nation gets its first bobsleigh gold

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Won Yun-jong and Seo Young-woo during the second race of the IBSF World Cup two-man bobsleigh event in Whistler, British Columbia, Saturday (Korean time). Won and Seo became first Koreans to win the gold medal at the fifth IBSF World Cup race. In the season’s sixth race yesterday, the two finished ninth. [AP/NEWSIS]

Won Yun-jong and Seo Young-woo became first Koreans to win a gold medal at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup, as they topped the two-man bobsleigh race on Saturday (Korean time) in Whistler, British Columbia.

At the season’s fifth IBSF World Cup event, Won and Seo finished with 1 minute, 43.41 seconds after two races and shared the first place with Switzerland’s Rico Peter and Thomas Amrhein. Russia’s Alexander Kasjanov and Aleksei Pushkarev was third at just one hundredth of a second behind the two teams.

This was the first time an Asian team finished first place at the IBSF World Cup bobsleigh event.

In the team’s sixth World Cup event in Canada yesterday, the two Koreans finished ninth.

The last performance notwithstanding, the duo has been producing impressive results this season, collecting medals in four out of six World Cup racing series so far. They collected Korea’s first ever World Cup medal in the season opener event in Altenberg, Germany in November and then collected two more bronze medals in Winterberg, Germany in December 2015 and Lake Placid, United States, earlier this month.

The victory also made pilot Won the first Korean to top the IBSF World Cup world rankings at 1,001 points, followed by Germany’s Nico Walther at 898 and Switzerland’s Rico Peter at 889.

“I’m happy, but at the same time I’m also bewildered,” Won was quoted as saying by the Korea Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (KBSF). “We are the ones who got the results, but there were so many people who put in the work to make it all possible.”

At the medal awards ceremony, Won and Seo dedicated their historic victory to late national team coach Malcolm “Gomer” Lloyd, who passed away earlier this month from cancer. Lloyd, who was 68, coached Korea from 2013.

Since the death of Lloyd, Won and Seo have been attaching stickers on their helmets and bobsleigh which read “Gomer, rest in peace. We love you.” At the ceremony, they were joined by Lloyd’s wife, Jeannie Godfrey, who handed the special medals to the Koreans and encouraged them on behalf of her husband.

The result boosts Won and Seo’s medal hopes for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Both Won and Seo began bobsleigh when they were Sungkyul University students who were originally trying to become physical education teachers.

The 29-year-old Won, who started to bobsleigh in 2010, first partnered with 23-year-old brakesman Seo in February 2011 in the two-man bobsleigh at the Junior World Championships, where they finished 13th. They previously finished 18th in the two-man bobsleigh in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Meanwhile, Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin finished third in his competition at Whistler on Sunday (Korean time). The 21-year-old clocked 1:45.24 to get his fifth medal in the six World Cup skeleton competitions this season.

Yun also moved up in his world rankings from No. 3 to No. 2 with 1,140 points. World No. 1 Martins Dukurs again won the series at 1:44.31, while his older brother Tomass finished second.

Korea’s racers will travel to St. Mortiz, Switzerland, for the season’s seventh World Cup event this weekend.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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