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[PyeongChang 2018] South Korean skeleton star set for coronation as new king on track

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- South Korean skeleton star Yun Sung-bin is set for a coronation as the new king of the sliding track on Friday.

After the first two of four runs Thursday, Yun found himself comfortably in first place at Olympic Sliding Centre in PyeongChang after breaking the track record twice.

He broke it the first time in his opening run of 50.28 seconds, improving the previous record, held by Martins Dukurs of Latvia, by 0.36 second. In the second run held about an hour later, Yun went even faster, at 50.07 seconds.

South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in his second run in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)
South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in his second run in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)

At 1:40.35, Yun has a 0.74-second lead over Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) Nikita Tregubov heading into the final two runs, which will begin 9:30 a.m. Friday at Olympic Sliding Centre. And if Thursday‘s races are any indication, the gold medal will be Yun’s to lose and everyone will be fighting for second place.

Yun came into PyeongChang ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings, thanks to four gold and two silver medals in six starts.

Dukurs, an eight-time World Cup overall champion with five world titles to boot, ranked third with 1:41.23 after the first two runs. He‘s still looking for his first Olympic gold, after winning silver in each of the past two Olympic Games. Yun has said he looks up to Dukurs, but the Latvian great has been playing second fiddle to the South Korean all season, with two gold and two silver medals at the World Cup.

South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in his second run in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)
South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in his second run in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)

Also on Friday, rising figure skating star Cha Jun-hwan will make his first appearance in the individual competition, a chance to measure himself against a who’s who of figure skating today.

Cha will compete in the short program of the men‘s singles event at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, host of all ice events just east of PyeongChang, starting at 10 a.m. Cha will be the 14th of 30 skaters to perform.

The 16-year-old set a new personal best of 77.70 points in the short program during the team event last Friday. Cha had been battling flu heading into the competition, and his coach, Brian Orser, said he was quite satisfied with Cha’s performance.

Orser, who famously coached South Korean icon Kim Yu-na to a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, is working with other medal contenders in the men‘s singles here: defending champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)
South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin takes off in the men’s skeleton event at the Alpensia Sliding Center in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (Yonhap)

Orser has said he expects Cha to finish around the top 12 this time, and the teenager could use his first Olympic experience as a stepping stone for the next Winter Games in Beijing four years later.

Elsewhere, the South Korean men’s curling team will continue its round robin play at Gangneung Curling Centre. South Korea lost its first two games Wednesday: 11-7 to the United States and 7-2 to Sweden. (Yonhap)

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