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Hair-raising Kim wins third cross-country medal for Korea at YOG

Republic of Korea skier Magnus Kim believes that his signature hairstyle played a big role as he collected his third medal of the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

The Korean, with a distinctive high-ponytail on top of his head, added another gold to his YOG medal collection on Thursday by winning the men’s 10km free in 23 minutes 4.8 seconds at Birkebeineren Cross-Country Stadium. He had previously taken gold in the men's cross-country cross free and silver in the sprint classic.

The skier, whose mother is Korean and father Norwegian, is convinced that his hairdo has played a part in his success. “This hairstyle is my signature. When I do this [style] I ski faster,” he said. “[Without it] I would maybe have taken silver or bronze. It’s not aerodynamic at all, but it helps my mentality. People can identify me better, so I get more cheering.”

The extra support certainly paid off, as he beat Norway's Vebjoern Hegdal into second place by 16 seconds in the final race of the cross-country programme at Lillehammer 2016. It was a commanding performance. “Today I went out hard and I hoped I wouldn’t ‘meet the wall’ as we say in

Norwegian: just ‘bam’ and then you stop. But I managed the whole race in a good way and my time was fast,” he said.

Norway's Vebjoern Hegdal (left) and Republic of Korea's Magnus Kim. Photo: YIS / IOC Jon Buckle

With his shining performance at the Youth Olympic Games and the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games only two years away, Kim said he hopes his success will enhance the popularity of cross-country skiing in Korea.

“I believe that it [my success] will give a boost to the sport. This could grow interest and as a result make more facilities. That would make me really happy,” he said.

“Korea has this ‘boom’ thing. If something booms, everyone is interested. We will see if cross-country skiing takes that boom. I hope so.”

Vebjoern Hegdal, of Norway, pushes towards the finish. YIS / IOC Jon Buckle

Second-placed Hegdal, who had won bronze on Tuesday (16 February) in the sprint classic, was disappointed with finishing behind his close friend. “I didn't feel very good, so it was a hard fight," he said. "Sometimes, you feel bad. [Winning a second medal at the Games] is good, but I know how good I am on this course, so I am disappointed. It was an amazing course, we had a really good crowd and the weather was good. But I wasn’t.

“Magnus is a good friend,” he added. “He is very strong athlete and he was the best. It's going to be cool to see Korea competing against Norway in senior years.”

Igor Fedotov, of Russia, won bronze, completing the course in 23:59.2. “I worked very hard during the summer and winter to prepare," he said. "This [result] is really good. Our country is supporting us and to bring a medal home gives [something] back for all the work they put in for me.”

Written by YIS / IOC EMMA LUPANO with Kim Joo-Hyun and IOC Young Reporter Jerick Sablan

Emma Lupano is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Milan-based Emma has worked at the last five Olympic Games and also covered the Innsbruck 2012 and Nanjing 2014 YOGs. A China specialist, she has worked as a freelance journalist from Beijing for four years.

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