SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean athletes have thus far turned in a surprising performance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with an ice dance pair becoming first South Koreans to compete in free dance, the women’s curling team through to the semifinal, and ‘Iron Man’ Yun Sung-bin winning Asia’s very first gold medal in skeleton.
South Korea has so far won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals in speed skating including short track, men’s team pursuit speed skating, and women’s 3,000-metre relay.
Though the country is known for fast speed skaters and often banks on them in the medal count, this year’s host nation also has had its fair share of talented and record-breaking athletes who are exploring uncharted waters. Here are some of the athletes who have won the hearts of South Koreans.
Ice Dance Pair Min Yura and Alexander Gamelin
Finishing 18th out of 20 ice dance teams, the highest ranking to date by South Koreans, ice dance pair Min Yura and Alexander Gamelin have become some of the most beloved athletes representing the country.
The pair’s emotional performance to Korean folk song ‘Arirang’ in the free dance was met with cheers from a roaring crowd at Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.
The two American-born South Korean athletes, clothed in hanbok-inspired costumes in an ode to the traditional Korean garment, couldn’t hide their emotions after their last performance at this year’s Winter Olympics.
Figure skating legend Kim Yu-na, who lit the Olympic cauldron, was spotted in the audience, as she came to cheer on the two.
In an interview after the free dance program, Min said with a smile that she was happy that the pair performed to the song Arirang at the Olympics.
“When we first chose Arirang, assistant coaches said the song was a risky choice, expressing concerns that non-Korean judges wouldn’t know the song,” Min said, looking back at the past. However, she persisted and pushed forward.
“Since the Olympics were being held in Korea, I chose that music. If we were to compete in the Olympics, we wanted to win the qualification with that song,” she added.
Despite their American background, the pair met while training together in the U.S., and passed a citizenship test to represent South Korea in the Olympics.
The pair’s friendly and cute image has garnered growing support from fans both at home and abroad, including tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, as well as a GoFundMe page to prepare the pair for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which has brought in over $64,000 so far.
‘Garlic Girls’: South Korean Women’s Curling Team
The South Korean women’s curling team is ready to face off with Japan on Friday, having booked a spot in the semifinal after an unprecedented series of victories.
The team earned the peculiar nickname ‘Garlic Girls,’ given the fact that all four members are from Uiseong County, a region famous for garlic production.
Another fun fact is the team consisting of sisters Kim Yeong-mi and Kim Kyeong-ae, as well as Kim Eun-jung and Kim Seon-yeong, all share the same surname.
Kim Eun-jung’s signature loud shouts of ‘Yeong-mi’ during the games as a way of communication has spawned numerous memes and parody videos on YouTube.
Yun Sung-bin, Asia’s First Gold Medalist in Skeleton
South Korean skeleton racer Yun Sung-bin made history when he became the first Asian athlete to win a gold medal in the winter sport.
“Each night, I imagined myself being on the podium. I wanted to also dream during sleep, but that didn’t happen so often,” Yun said during the medal ceremony at the PyeongChang Medal Plaza after his record-breaking performance.
Yun earned his nickname ‘Iron Man’, as he sports an Iron Man helmet when competing in skeleton.
Last week, Marvel director Jon Favreau, who produced Iron Man, tweeted a picture of a skeleton sled captioned ‘Iron Man on ice!’
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)