On January 23, at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation World Cup in Whistler, Canada, the South Korean bobsleigh team, Won Yun-jong (31) and Seo Young-woo (25), won the nation’s first-ever gold medal.
The duo, with Won as the pilot, and Seo, as his brakeman, finished their two runs in a total of 1:43.41. The game was noted by IBSF as “the closest-ever race in World Cup history” with the Russian duo of Alexander Kasjanov and Aleksei Pushkarev coming in just 0.01 second behind Korea and Swiss. Surpassing European and North American teams with a notable tradition for winning, the two proudly took the top of the IBSF World Cup podium as the first Asians to step into global rankings in bobsleigh history.
In fact, the pair had been showing outstanding results throughout all of the season. Receiving medals during four of six World Cup racing series, they have taken third place at the first, second, and fourth World Cups, and ultimately first place at the fifth. Despite ranking ninth in the sixth World Cup which took place on January 24, the duo ranked top in the world rankings with a total of 1153 points.
Won and Seo dedicated their victory to former Korean national team head coach Malcolm Gomer Lloyd, who passed away earlier in January. Lloyd had coached the national team since the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and was They attached an alphabet, “G”, sticker on their helmets after their coach’s middle name to send their great appreciation. At the ceremony, Lloyd’s wife, Jeannie Godfrey, accompanied Won and Seo in place of her husband to hand them their personal medals with the message, “Go for PyeongChang, go for gold.”
There were a few reasons why their victory was even more meaningful. The biggest reason was that the main attention of Korean winter sports had always been short track speed skating and speed skating. Whereas, sledge had no groundwork or expectations of earning a medal. Thereby, the duo had trained in inadequate circumstances, without local practice arenas to train in or personal bobsleighs to ride in.
Won and Seo were also different in that their encounter with bobsleigh was relatively recent. Until 2010, they had been normal college students wishing to become a physical education instructor, simply fascinated by a poster for the trials of the National Team. They experienced painful training of gaining weight, as the heavier, the greater the acceleration becomes when sledding. After repeating the pattern of eating and training, as the saying, “no pain, no gain,” the team showed improvement in their records year after year. In February 2011 at the Junior World Championships, they finished 13th, and recently placed 18th in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. This year, they ultimately clinched the first bobsleigh World Cup gold medal and proudly rising as world’s first of bobsleigh duo.
Their victorious appearance has grown greater hopes of Korea’s first Olympics medal on the home track, 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.
– Yoo Bin Shin (’18)
Featured Image: Edaily