PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korea’s “Iron Man”, Yun Sung-bin rocketed to the men’s skeleton gold on Friday and become the first athlete outside Europe or North America to win an Olympic sliding medal after dominating the event at the Pyeongchang Games.
“I just want to turn my phone off and go to sleep,” Yun told reporters after his historic win.
Yun, who won the hosts’ second gold of the Games, finished 1.63 seconds ahead of Nikita Tregubov, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, while Briton Dom Parsons took bronze after five-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist Martins Dukurs of Latvia made mistakes in his final run.
“I was gutted after that fourth run, I thought I’d binned it,” Parsons told Reuters. “Martins is one of the skeleton greats so I didn’t expect him to make a mistake on his last Olympic run but I was very lucky ... that he did.”
Parsons’ bronze was the first skeleton medal for a British male since 1948. British women, however, have been an ever constant on the podium since the sport was re-introduced to the Winter Olympics program in 2002.
Parsons had been standing next to Russian athlete Tregubov after Martin’s bad run put him into a podium position.
“He doesn’t speak very good English, so I was kind of turning to him like ‘did that really just happen?,” Parsons said.
“I still can’t really believe it”.
Yun, who races in an Iron Man-style helmet and red racing suit, has emerged as a Winter Olympics super hero for the host country, with excited crowds flocking to watch him compete.
The 23-year-old was by far the most consistent performer throughout the competition and headed into the decisive fourth and final run with a virtually unassailable lead of more than a second.
“I texted him last night and told him not to feel too much pressure,” said Kim Joon-ho, a childhood friend of Yun’s.
“He said he’ll do as usual,” said Kim.
With only a potential disaster to stop him from securing gold, “Iron Man” again delivered the fastest run down the ice and thundered over the finish line at over 125 kph in front of a euphoric home crowd where he took off his helmet and gave a deep bow on his hands and knees.
“I made a lot of effort to make it this far,” Yun said.
“I hope this could be the beginning of skeleton in Korea, not the end.”
Reporting by James Pearson and Jane Chung; Editing by Greg Stutchbury