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Yun Sungbin wins Olympic skeleton gold

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Yun Sungbin left no doubt. It’s his track. It’s his gold medal.

The most decisive Olympic skeleton champion ever is a 23-year-old who had no idea what he was doing on a sled a few years ago and now stands taller than anyone else in the sport.

Yun won in commanding fashion at the Pyeongchang Games on Friday, his four-run time of 3 minutes, 20.55 seconds coming in 1.63 seconds ahead of silver medalist Nikita Tregubov of Russia.

For the U.S., 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Matt Antoine was 11th. Three-time Olympian and Smithtown native John Daly was 16th.

Most skeleton races are decided by tenths or hundreths of a second, but Yun was dominant from start to finish — the fastest slider, in every way, in every heat.

“Getting the gold medal in any Olympics is a very great result,” Yun said. “But getting the gold here in my home country is a very great honor, much bigger than that.”

It was the largest margin of victory in any Olympic sliding race — luge, bobsled or skeleton — in 46 years. To put it in some perspective, the average winning margin in a men’s World Cup skeleton race this season was 0.37 seconds.

Yun smashed that. South Korea has its first Olympic sliding gold, and got it emphatically.

Yun 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.

“Yun! Sung! Bin!” they chanted, over and over. “Yun! Sung! Bin!”

Yun delivered.

Happy New Year, indeed. On a national holiday in Korea — the start of a lunar new year — Yun became a national hero. He is the reigning World Cup overall champion, is now the Olympic champion and his career is only just starting.

“It is not my effort alone that got me this medal,” Yun said. “I would like to thank all my team for helping me, encouraging me. It is still unbelievable that I got the gold medal.”

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.

The only drama in the final heat was who would finish second. Tregubov won that battle, edging Dom Parsons of Britain. Latvia’s Martins Dukurs, the winningest World Cup men’s skeleton racer in history, struggled in the final run and slipped to fourth.

“It was a very hard time for me actually, but right now I experience unbelievable feelings,” Tregubov said. “It is an unbelievable experience to get a medal in this Olympics.”

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