By Yoon Seungjin
Photos = Olympic Information Services of International Olympic Committee
The Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics (Gangwon 2024), where young talent from around the world are displaying their heated passion and beautiful competitions, has one day left.
What was the mindsets of the athletes before they arrived in Korea? This series of interviews with three Gangwon 2024 athletes was conducted by two Korea.net Honorary Reporters, offering insights into the athletes’ determination and mindset before the competition.
Introduced to skeleton through his parents’ recommendation, Yaroslav Lavreniuk has been involved in the sport since 2021. On how he got into it, he said “The main allure of skeleton is speed,” adding, “Riding a sled at high speeds with minimal protective equipment seemed both exciting and at times dangerous.”
Lavreniuk has since seen a swift ascent in showing impressive performances at international competitions in Norway, Austria and Korea, earning him a spot at Gangwon 2024. “Competing at the Olympics has been a lifelong dream,” he said, “I am determined to excel at Gangwon 2024.”
As a testament to his determination, Lavreniuk on Jan. 23 finished second in the men’s skeleton final, completing the course in 1 minute 45.67 seconds, to take home the silver medal.
From age 4, Kenya’s Ashley Tshanda Ongong’a started dreaming of becoming a cross-country skier. She gained experience by consistently entering competitions and made history as the first African woman to compete in a Winter Youth Olympic Games by qualifying for Gangwon 2024.
Reflecting on the moment when she qualified for Gangwon 2024, Ongong’a described it as “the best news” of an athlete’s life and said her dream had come true. “I want to motivate youth from around the world, especially from Kenya, and make them realize that they can achieve their dreams and change the world through sports.”
Ongang’a on Jan. 29 was eliminated in the women’s sprint preliminaries and failed to earn a medal in the women’s 7.5 km classic the next day. “I don’t give up no matter how hard it may seem,” she said.
Her final challenge is on the morning of Feb. 1 in the mixed 4×5 km relay.
Siddharta Ullah said he is proud to represent the U.K. at Gangwon 2024 and hopes to compete to the best of his ability and make history.
“I look forward to enjoying every moment and experience of the tournament while immersing myself in the beauty of Korea,” he said, adding that he expects to try the country’s food and culture.
“I’ll gear up for the upcoming World Cup and Grand Prix competitions, aiming to showcase solid performances,” he said, with his new goal being qualifying for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, Italy.
Ullah on Feb. 1 is slated to compete in the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifier, coinciding with the closing ceremony of Gangwon 2024.