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[PyeongChang 2018] Host S. Korea falls short of gold medal target

Host South Korea fell short of its gold medal target at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will draw to conclusion on Sunday after two-plus weeks of competition for 102 gold medals.

With South Korea in the women's curling final scheduled and the four-man bobsleigh team in contention later Sunday, the host country was sitting at five gold, six silver and four bronze medals, good for a tie for seventh place in the standings.

South Korea sent its largest Winter Olympics delegation ever, with 144 athletes competing in all 15 sports, and set out to grab at least eight gold, four silver and eight bronze medals for a top-four finish.

Top ten countries for 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, as of 9:30 a.m. on the last day of the Olympics on Feb. 25. (Yonhap)
Top ten countries for 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, as of 9:30 a.m. on the last day of the Olympics on Feb. 25. (Yonhap)

And even if both the curling team and the bobsleigh team capture gold on Sunday, South Korea will end up with seven gold medals, one shy of its target but still its record for a single Winter Games. The previous high of six gold medals was set in Torino in 2006 and matched in Vancouver four years later. In terms of total medals through Saturday, South Korea has already surpassed its previous record of 14 medals, won in Vancouver.

One of South Korea's five gold medals through Saturday came from the men's skeleton, where Yun Sung-bin became the first athlete from the country to win an Winter Games medal away from ice. All previous medals had come from short track speed skating, speed skating and figure skating.

At PyeongChang, short track speed skating yield three gold, one silver and two bronze medals. Choi Min-jeong was the host nation's only double gold medalist, having won the women's 1,500m and the 3,000m relay titles.

Lim Hyo-jun, the men's 1,500m champion, was the other short track champion for South Korea, which led all other countries in short track medals here. No other nation grabbed more than one gold medal in short track.

But South Korea would have met its gold medal target if not for an adventurous day in short track last Thursday.

The finals for the men's 500m, the women's 1,000m and the men's 5,000m relay were all held that day. And South Korea had two finalists in the two individual races, and the men had qualified for the relay as well.

In the 500m, Hwang Dae-heon and Lim Hyo-jun took silver and bronze behind Wu Dajing of China, who charged out in front from the start and never lost his lead. During the women's 1,000m final, Choi bumped into teammate Shim Suk-hee, and the two medal contenders fell and crashed into the safety padding. Lim himself took an ugly fall during the men's relay without contact, when South Korea was leading midway through the 45-lap race.

What promised to be a golden day for South Korea produced one silver and one bronze.

Speed skating, on the other hand, exceeded expectations with one gold, four silver and two bronze. Lee Seung-hoon, a three-time Olympian, is now Asia's all-time leader in speed skating medals with five, due to gold in the men's mass start and silver in team pursuit here.

Lee also won at least a medal for the third consecutive Olympics. And his long-time friend and teammate, Lee Sang-hwa, also won her third consecutive medal, following her two straight gold medals in the women's 500m with a silver here this time.

Then there were some unexpected medalists, like Cha Min-kyu (silver in the men's 500m), Kim Tae-yun (bronze in the men's 1,000m) and Kim Min-seok (bronze in the men's 1,500m).

In skeleton, Yun's gold medal was as dominant as it was historic. His victory margin of 1.63 seconds was the largest ever in the Winter Olympics.

Alpine snowboarder Lee Sang-ho also made history by winning silver in the men's parallel giant slalom. He is the first South Korean to win an Olympic medal in a snow event, and also the first Asian man to reach the podium in alpine snowboarding.

Through Saturday, Norway and Germany were leading all countries with 13 gold medals each. (Yonhap)