Chung Jae-won, the pacemaker of 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, has won his first championship title as adult athlete. The 19-year-old South Korean made a dramatic last-ditch spurt in the men’s mass start final at the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Heerenveen, the Netherlands on Sunday, finishing first with 7 minutes and 47.06 seconds.
Amassing a total 462 points in mass start through six rounds, Chung finished the season in the third place, following Bart Swings of Belgium and Joey Mantia of the United States.
Chung joined the national team of South Korea in 2017 as Lee Seung-hoon’s partner, who was once famed as the world’s best mass starter. Chun’s role was to control the pace of the team’s ace while wasting the stamina of Lee’s rivals in the earlier phase of the game. As high school student, Chung fulfilled his role with flying colors, and Lee won a gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. At that time, controversies arose that the younger players were forced to sacrifice for the obsession with results.
Chung refused to stay a pacemaker, however. He parlayed his experiences into building his own style. And the 19-year-old is finding himself standing tall on his own feet. Indeed, this is the first time that Chung has won gold in an international competition for adult athletes in three years since he debuted in mass start.
The latest trend of mass start, a sport where the skater finishes 16 laps of 400-meter track, is to go all in from the start to the end. A year ago, the best records would hover around eight minutes, but now they are down to seven minutes and 50 or even 40 seconds, which effectively renders meaningless the role of pacemakers. Experts say Chung’s steady exposure to short track training must have helped him excel at mass start.
Jae-Yeong Yoo firstname.lastname@example.org