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Tough-luck speed skater enjoying string of good fortune

In this USA Today Sports file photo via Reuters from Dec. 3, 2021, Kim Jun-ho of South Korea competes in the men's 500m during the International Skating Union Speed Skating World Cup at Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Reuters-Yonhap)
In this USA Today Sports file photo via Reuters from Dec. 3, 2021, Kim Jun-ho of South Korea competes in the men's 500m during the International Skating Union Speed Skating World Cup at Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Reuters-Yonhap)

INCHEON-- Lady Luck seems to be finally smiling down on South Korean speed skater Kim Jun-ho this season, after the 27-year-old had suffered some bad fortune on the ice for years. Kim has gone from losing out on medals by fractions of a second to winning them by miniscule margins.

Kim opened the International Skating Union World Cup season in November with a bronze medal in the men's 500 meters. He added another bronze in the 500m earlier this month and then claimed his first World Cup title in three years last week.

And Kim came oh-so-close to not even winning the first two bronze medals.

Speed skaters are normally timed to the one-hundredth of a second. And at the first World Cup in Stavanger, Norway, on Nov. 12, Kim and Wataru Morishige were both clocked at 35.01 seconds. But Kim got the bronze medal by 0.002 second, 35.017 to 35.019.

Wataru had won the 500m bronze medal at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February in 34.50 seconds, with Kim only finishing 0.04 second behind in sixth place.

And this time, 0.002 was the magic number for Kim, who won his next bronze medal in Calgary on Dec. 10 by the same margin.

Kim finished in 34.198 seconds, while Yuma Murakami of Japan did so in 34.200.

Back in Calgary for the fourth World Cup race last Saturday, Kim grabbed gold by 0.01 second over American Jordan Stolz, 34.07 seconds to 34.08 seconds.

"I am now wondering how nice it would have been if I'd been this lucky at the Olympics," Kim said with a smile after landing at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Tuesday night. Four years before the close call in Beijing, Kim had his skate blade catch the ice at the start en route to a disappointing 12th-place finish at PyeongChang 2018.

"Still, I am really happy to have finished the year 2022 with these medals, even if I won them by 0.002 second a couple of times," said Kim, who met with reporters wearing his two latest World Cup medals.

After crossing the line in 34.07 seconds and seeing his time flash on the screen Saturday, Kim let out a scream and raised both arms. It was not a celebratory gesture, though, Kim clarified Tuesday. Rather, he said he was letting out his frustration over not breaking the national record time of 34.03 seconds.

"I worked all summer trying to break that mark," Kim said of the record set by teammate Cha Min-kyu in 2019. "So I was mad at myself for coming up short. It ended up looking like I was celebrating."

Kim added with a smile, "If I break the record in my next race, maybe I will raise my arms even higher." (Yonhap)

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