‘Skeleton Emperor': South Korea Cheers ‘Iron Man' for Sliding Medal

Yun's home-ice advantage is an important part of this Olympic story, though it's not why he's winning

South Korea's "Iron Man" Yun Sungbin has spent thousands of hours at the sliding track his nation built for these Pyeongchang Olympics, studying every nuance and scrutinizing every inch.

He knows it better than anyone alive.

And the payoff for that work came Friday when Sungbin, wearing his trademark “Iron Man” helmet, claimed first place in the men's skeleton, sending the home crowd into raptures.

"Yun! Sung! Bin!" they chanted, over and over. "Yun! Sung! Bin!"

On a national holiday in Korea — the start of a lunar new year — Yun became a national hero, winning the country's first gold medal in the men's skeleton competition. 

“It became the best Lunar New Year’s gift to our people," South Korean President Moon Jae-in wrote in a congratulatory message on Twitter. Yun showed to us that we can be the best in the world if we try and dare to challenge a new field,” Moon wrote. “Thank you skeleton emperor Yun Sung-bin.”

Yun clocked a time of 50.02 in the fourth heat for a cumulative time of 3:20.55. The 23-year-old beat silver medal winner Nikita Tregubov, one of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, by a margin of 1.63 seconds.

It was the biggest victory margin in Olympic skeleton, topping 1948, when Italy's Nino Bibbia topped Jack Heaton of the U.S. by 1.4 seconds in a six-heat race. 

South Korea has never been close to an Olympic medal in any sliding sport, and Yun — the one his nation identified as the slider with the most potential of becoming a star at these games — changed all that.

Yun's home-ice advantage is an important part of this Olympic story, though it's not why he's winning. He wins everywhere. He toyed with the World Cup circuit this season, winning five times and finishing second in his other two starts. He won the overall season points total even after skipping the final race to prep for Pyeongchang.

He stepped onto the award podium shortly after finishing, arms skyward as thousands of his fellow South Koreans roared. They showed up early on a bright morning in the Taebaek Mountains, fully expecting to see the sort of dominance he himself envisioned when taking thousands of training runs on the track that was built for these Olympics, the track he knows better than anyone else in sliding.

“I can’t find any better way to describe him than as skeleton emperor,” Kim Young-soon, 40, who was at the medal ceremony with her two children told Reuters. 

Yun bowed before the adoring crowd.

“I feel good to hear from people cheering me that way, I haven’t come this far just to get that title,” said Yun, according to Reuters.

“And my biggest wish is that this interest and support not fade out after the Olympics but could lead to finding new talents.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us