Gangwon Hosts Memorable Winter Youth Olympics Opening with South Korean Sports Icons

GANGWON – The fourth edition of the Winter Youth Olympics commenced with a spectacular opening ceremony in Gangwon, South Korea, celebrating the nation's winter sports stars from past, present, and future. The event, held on Friday night in Gangneung and Pyeongchang, marked the country's first hosting of the Winter Youth Olympics.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the main ceremony took place at the Gangneung Oval, the speed skating venue in Gangneung. The ceremony featured the parade of participating athletes, the raising of the national flag, the Taegeukgi, and the lighting of the Youth Olympic cauldron. Six former and active winter sports athletes, symbolizing six different sports, carried the Taegeukgi into the oval. Leading the group was Seo Whi-min, the 2022 Olympic silver medalist in women's short track speed skating and a three-time medalist at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics. Seo, 21, was chosen to symbolize the hope of Youth Olympic Games athletes aspiring to become future Olympic stars.

Joining Seo was 31-year-old biathlete Kim Yong-gyu, who made history by winning a bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Winter Games, the first individual medal by a Korean biathlete in the event's history. Other flag bearers included Jun Jung-lin, a member of the historic South Korean men's four-man bobsleigh team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and Lee Hae-in, an 18-year-old figure skater poised for her Winter Games debut in 2026. Former speed skater Lee Kang-seok and ex-national women's hockey team player Ahn Kun-young also joined the prestigious group.

The final torch relay showcased a blend of star power and future potential. Yun Sung-bin, the 2018 Olympic men's skeleton gold medalist, initiated the final journey of the Youth Olympic flame in Pyeongchang, where he made history six years prior. Sisters Park Ha-eun and Park Ga-eun, short track speed skaters with intellectual developmental disabilities competing at the National Winter Para Games, continued 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, also participated in the relay, being the first South Korean skater to compete in two different Olympic events.

The honor of lighting the Youth Olympic cauldron went to freestyle skier Lee Jeong-min, a 17-year-old competitor at Gangwon 2024, symbolizing the aspirations of young athletes and potential future Olympic stars.

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