The Korea Herald


S. Korean bobsleigh pilot finding groove ahead of Beijing Olympics

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 4, 2022 - 10:28

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South Korean bobsleigh pilot Won Yun-jong (Yonhap) South Korean bobsleigh pilot Won Yun-jong (Yonhap)
With one month to go before the Beijing Winter Olympics, South Korean bobsleigh pilot Won Yun-jong seems to be finally hitting his stride.

After a series of mediocre showings, Won and his brakeman, Kim Jin-su, posted their first top-10 finishes of this season in the two-man bobsleigh at the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) World Cup in Sigulda, Latvia, over the weekend.

On New Year's Day, they ranked a season-high ninth with a combined time of 1:39.77 after two runs. Then on Sunday, Won and Kim set a new season best by finishing in sixth place at 1:39.82 after two runs.

Though they didn't exactly set the world on fire, they would gladly take any positive development at this point, with the Winter Games on the horizon.

The Sigulda stop was the sixth World Cup of the 2021-2022 season. At the season-opening event in November in Innsbruck, Austria, Won and his usual brakeman, Seo Young-woo, finished in 17th.

Seo then went down with a shoulder injury. Kim stepped in, starting with the second World Cup later in November, and the new tandem ended up in 21st place.

The same pattern held: Won and Kim were 17th in their next World Cup on Dec. 4 and then 21st in the follow-up event on Dec. 18, both held in Altenberg, Germany.

Then came the turnaround in Latvia. Won hadn't broken the 50-second mark in any race this season before doing so in all four runs in Sigulda.

Seong Yeon-taek, vice chairman of the Korea Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation, said it was only a matter of time before Won and Kim found their groove. Seong noted that the newly formed team needed a few competitions to get the right setup with their sled.

"They have been improving with each race as they have been getting more comfortable with their sled," Seong said. "They have gone through some trial and error, and we expect them to keep getting from here and on."

Seo, who has been Won's brakeman since 2013, is expected to recover in time for Beijing.

It bears watching whether the encouraging performance in the two-man event will have an impact on Won's four-man competition.

Won and Seo were part of the silver medal-winning four-man team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. But with Seo sidelined, Won hasn't had a top-10 finish in the four-man bobsleigh at any of the six World Cups so far.

The next four-man race at the World Cup will be Sunday in Winterberg, Germany.

For Beijing 2022, 126 quota spots for men and 46 for women will be distributed based on world rankings as of Jan. 16. Pilots must have competed in eight races on three different tracks and must have been ranked in at least five races on two tracks. They must also be ranked inside the top 50 for men and top 40 for women.

Won is No. 18 in the two-man bobsleigh and No. 26 in the four-man bobsleigh. (Yonhap)