Sports

South Korea's Olympic winner recalls going on eating spree to bulk up

South Korean gold medallist Yun recalls gaining 16kg in two weeks as a rookie

It was not the fear of speeding down a snaky icy track at more than 100kmh head-first and face-down, his chin hovering a few inches over the surface.

For South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung Bin, then 19, the hardest of it all was an eating spree to gain 16kg in just two weeks.

"I was new to the sport and felt that bulking up was the best and fastest way to improve performance. Weight means power and energy in this sport," Pyeongchang gold medallist Yun, nicknamed "Iron Man" for his flashy helmet and red racing suit, told Reuters.

Yun, who became the first athlete outside Europe or North America to win an Olympic sliding medal at Pyeongchang last Friday, said that he had a meal nearly every two hours.

"There was never a moment that my stomach felt empty. I was full every waking moment, and all I did was training and eating," Yun said at a lounge near the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.

Yun, now 23, just gorged on anything from protein meals to a staple Korean food with a bowl of rice and side dishes, and as much of them as he could stuff himself up.

I can't feel more proud if other athletes and beginners in winter sport dream of becoming a world champion one day because of me. South Korean skeleton slider and Pyeongchang gold medallist Yun Sung Bin

"I can't imagine ever doing that again," he said.

He was lucky that he did not suffer from health issues that could result from overeating.

Having maintained 87 kg for several years, Yun now has a normal diet of three meals per day - and his taste - back.

He wants to celebrate the end of the Olympics with fried chicken and instant noodles - South Koreans' favourite choice of snacks but something that he tried to limit in the run-up to competitions.

Eating aside, the unpopularity and tough training of the sliding sport made him rethink about his choice after he took up skeleton in 2012.

"My friends and other people asked, 'What is skeleton? Why on earth are you going to do it?" Yun said.

But he said that challenges went away quickly and he ended up having fun doing the sport.

South Korea has long been a powerhouse in short-track speed skating and "Queen" Kim Yuna won the country's first figure-skating gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, sparking more local interest in winter sports.

Skeleton racing, though, was little known to the South Korean public until Yun's stellar results and the rise of the "Skeleton Emperor" to global stardom.

HOPES TO INSPIRE

Jon Favreau, who directed the first Iron Man movie, also tweeted a picture of Yun on Saturday, saying "Iron Man on ice".

In real life, the new South Korean Olympic hero said that he doesn't have a nickname.

"I don't know if I've become anyone's hero. But I can't feel more proud if other athletes and beginners in winter sport dream of becoming a world champion one day, because of me," Yun said.

"At the next (Winter) Olympics in Beijing, I hope to see not only myself but other South Korean athletes on the podium."

For the time being, all Yun wants is a good rest.

"After I have all the rest and all the sleep I wish, I want to travel abroad," he said.

Yun spends much time in Europe for training and competitions, but it's been all about work."I want to go back to Europe, this time just as a backpacker." - REUTERS

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