2018 Winter Games will ensure more 'Yu Nas'

PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • For figure skating fans, Kim Yu Na was one of a kind.

Not really, according to Lee Hee Beom, the chief of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

"We have many more Kim Yu Nas," said Lee, a former government minister, in an interview yesterday.

"Kim Yu Na was a heroine for the younger generation. But we have many more... we have the second and third Kim Yu Nas.

"With the 2018 Winter Olympics, we will have the fourth and fifth, and many more heroes and heroines in winter sports."

His claim is a tantalising prospect for winter sports fans both in Korea and the world over.

Kim was a trailblazer who single-handedly raised the profile of winter sports in her homeland. She gave Korea its first Olympic figure skating gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

While short-track and speed skating account for 25 of Korea's 26 Winter Games golds, Kim's captivating performance in Canada brought the country to a standstill and gave rise to a generation of skaters, skiers and sliders.

The two-time world champion's retirement after the Sochi Games in 2014 at the age of 24 saw Korea bid farewell to one of its few global sporting personalities.

But Lee said there is no shortage of emerging talent waiting to step into her skates.

South Korea will host Asia's first Winter Games outside Japan from Feb 9-25 in 2018.

The coastal city of Gangneung will be used for the figure skating, curling, ice hockey, speed and short-track skating events.

The alpine town of Pyeongchang will stage mountain events such as skiing, sliding and Nordic events.

"Even though Pyeongchang is 400-odd days away, our feeling is that 2018 is right around the corner," said Lee, adding that all venues would be ready in time for the 26 test events to be held in the next few months.

Major infrastructure projects, including a high-speed rail link that will cut travel time between Incheon airport and Pyeongchang to 90 minutes, were also on track, he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline '2018 Winter Games will ensure more 'Yu Nas''. Subscribe