Iron Man aims for gold at 2019 World Championship

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Iron Man aims for gold at 2019 World Championship


Yun Sung-bin races at the eighth leg of the IBSF World Cup race in Calgary, Canada, on Feb. 24. [AP/YONHAP]

Skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin is hoping to finish his season strong at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Championship in Whistler, Canada, on Friday.

Yun, who is entering the tournament second in this season’s World Cup ranking, has been one of the most consistent racers throughout the 2018-19 season. Yun has ended up on the podium in every single one of the eight World Cup races he competed in this year, the first racer since Martins Dukurs of Latvia to do so.

Dukurs had all podium finishes three times - in 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2015-16.

After finishing the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as heroes, the Korean national sliding team was given no further support to continue their dominance due to a lack of facilities and investment. Since the Olympics, the Alpensia Sliding Centre, where the sliding events were hosted, stopped operating. The racers had to begin their season without training on an actual track.

Despite such poor training facilities and lack of support in their preparation for the 2018-19 season, Yun got off to a strong start by finishing third in his first two World Cup races. After two runner-up finishes, Yun finally picked up his first World Cup gold of the season in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.

Yun added another bronze and silver, before finishing the World Cup series with another gold in Calgary, Canada, on Feb. 24, his latest event.

To finish his season strong, he is hoping to win gold at the World Championship this week. Although Yun has won quite a large number of World Cup and Olympic races, he has never taken home gold from the World Championship.

Yun’s career-best performance at the World Championship was runner-up in 2016.

This year, he is determined to finally pick up his first career win at the World Championship as the tournament is held at the Whistler track. The sliding track in Whistler, Canada, has good memories for Yun, as it was where he picked up his first career victory at the Intercontinental Cup in January 2014.

He also won his first IBSF World Cup title in Whistler in the 2016-17 season, before winning another at Whistler Track in November 2017.

If Yun wins on Friday, he will once again become the first Asian skeleton racer ever to win something, this time the IBSF World Championship.

Yun came to skeleton late in life. In his final year of high school in 2012, Yun’s physical education teacher, now a director on the board of the Korean Skeleton Bobsleigh Federation (KSBF), suggested he try skeleton. The KSBF needed a skeleton racer and Yun’s speed grabbed their attention.

Yun’s first time sliding down a track in Park City, Utah, petrified him. Afterward, he phoned home from the locker room in tears, unsure whether he had made a terrible decision.

Yun ultimately decided to stick with the sport and by consistently training, he slowly made his way to the top.

Only a year and a half after starting skeleton, Yun competed at the Sochi Winter Olympics, finishing 16th. Then, at his second Olympics, which he competed in less than six years after he began the sport, Yun won Korea’s first-ever gold medal in sliding events at the Olympics.

Despite his success, Yun was quickly forgotten by many Korean fans once the Olympics ended. Far from being discouraged, Yun is more determined than ever before to ensure people don’t forget Korea is now a sliding nation.

The men’s skeleton World Championship will be competed over two days, starting today.

Following Yun’s race, Korea’s four-man bobsled team will start their heats at the World Championship at the Whistler Track on Friday. Led by pilot Won Yun-jong, Korea’s four-man bobsled team enters the World Championship ranking sixth in the World Cup ranking this season.

Although the bobsled team did not have a single podium finish at the World Cup this season, they are hoping to repeat their success from the PyeongChang Olympics a year ago. At the 2018 Games, Korea’s four-man bobsled team won a surprise silver medal.

Prior to the four-man race, the bobsled team already started their World Championship in the two-man bobsled race. The two-man bobsled team - Won and Seo Young-woo - finished seventh in the race, clocking a total time of 3 minutes and 25.81 seconds after four runs.

This season, Korea’s bobsled team hasn’t found it harder than Yun to adapt to the loss of their training facility: the two-man bobsled team is currently ranked fifth in the World Cup ranking.

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