Gangwon Celebrates Winter Youth Olympics Opening with South Korean Sports Legends

GANGWON – The opening ceremony of South Korea's first Winter Youth Olympics, held on Friday in Gangwon, showcased a remarkable blend of the nation's winter sports stars from various eras. The event marked the start of the fourth edition of the youth competition, with the ceremonies simultaneously taking place in Gangneung and Pyeongchang.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the Gangneung Oval, a speed skating venue in Gangneung, was the site of the main ceremony. The event featured the parade of athletes, the raising of the national flag, the Taegeukgi, and the lighting of the Youth Olympic cauldron. Six winter sports athletes, both former and active, and representing different sports, carried the Taegeukgi into the oval. Seo Whi-min, a 2022 Olympic silver medalist in women's short track speed skating and a three-time medalist at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics, led the group. The 21-year-old Seo was selected to symbolize the aspirations of Youth Olympic Games athletes aiming for Olympic success.

Joining Seo was Kim Yong-gyu, a 31-year-old biathlete who achieved a bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Winter Games, marking the first individual medal for a Korean biathlete in the history of the Asian Games. Jun Jung-lin, 35, a member of South Korea's historic men's four-man bobsleigh team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and Lee Hae-in, an 18-year-old figure skater preparing for her potential Winter Games debut in 2026, were also part of the flag-bearing team. Former speed skater Lee Kang-seok and ex-national women's hockey team player Ahn Kun-young completed the group.

The final torch relay featured a mixture of renowned athletes and those with promising futures. Yun Sung-bin, the 2018 Olympic men's skeleton gold medalist, began the final leg of the Youth Olympic flame in Pyeongchang, where he became the first Asian Olympic champion in a sliding event six years ago. Sisters Park Ha-eun and Park Ga-eun, both short track speed skaters with intellectual developmental disabilities competing in the National Winter Para Games, followed in the relay. Park Seung-hi, a two-time short track champion at the 2014 Winter Olympics and a competitor in speed skating at PyeongChang 2018, was also part of the relay, being the first South Korean skater to compete in two different Olympic events.

The ceremony concluded with freestyle skier Lee Jeong-min, set to compete at Gangwon 2024 at age 17, lighting the Youth Olympic cauldron. Lee represented his fellow young athletes and the potential future stars of the Olympic Games.

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