Before the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, no one would have thought that South Korea's four-man bobsleigh team would win a medal.
The South Korean team, piloted by Won Yun-jong, was ranked only 50th in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation rankings.
With its silver medal run at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the team of Won, Seo Young-woo, Jun Jung-lin and Kim Dong-hyun made history, becoming the first Asian bobsledders to stand on the Olympic podium.
|From left: Won Yun-jong, Seo Young-woo, Jun Jung-lin and Kim Dong-hyun (Yonhap)|
South Korea had not received the spotlight until the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. At Vancouver 2010, South Korea made a surprising debut by finishing 19th. At Sochi 2014, South Korea sent two teams, but neither produced satisfying results. The team piloted by Won took 20th, while another team, driven by Kim, finished 28th.
It was pretty much same story at IBSF World Cups. South Korea has posted top 10 finishes only twice, and they were in the 2016-17 season. It finished fifth in Lake Placid, the United States in December 2016, and seventh in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, in March 2017.
For this season, the team competed only twice on the World Cup circuit, posting 11th and 10th, respectively.
However, things started to change from last December and that's when South Korean head coach Lee Yong said to the media that the four-man bobsleigh may surprise the world. And he wasn't joking.
While fans focused on whether the two-man bobsleigh team of Won and Seo, who were ranked No. 1 in the 2015-16 season, could win a medal or not, the four-man team was also on track to get a medal, riding the course at the Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang four or six times daily, an advantage that a home team can enjoy ahead of the Olympic Games.
And there was also teamwork and sacrifice from Kim and Jun. The duo was originally looking to compete in the two-man bobsleigh competition at PyeongChang 2018, but instead, they decided to focus on the four-man competition with Won and Seo.
Among the four, Kim had already experienced four-man bobsleigh competition in two previous Olympics. At Vancouver 2010, he was a brakeman, and four years later in Sochi, Russia, he was a pilot.
This time, Kim went back to his old job of serving as a brakeman and let Won to drive the sled, while Jun worked as a pushman along with Seo.
Their intensive training on the track and decision to let Seo control the sled turned out to be the right decision as South Korea showed superb driving technique to grab its historic medal at the Olympics Games.
Coincidently, all four bobsledders could have been physical education teachers.
Won, 32, and Seo, 26, are both alumni of Sungkyul University in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, studying physical education, while Kim, 30, and Jun, 29, both studied at Yonsei University in Seoul, also majoring in physical education.
Among the four, Kim was the first to start bobsledding in 2008, followed by Won and Seo, who have both competed in the sport since 2010. Jun entered the bobsleigh world in 2012 following Kim's recommendation. (Yonhap)