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PyeongChang Olympics 'battle with myself' for speed skater

2018/01/12 17:22

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SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- After coming up short of his second Olympic medal in Sochi in 2014, South Korean speed skating star Mo Tae-bum simply let himself go.

Frustrated that his personal best times weren't enough for a podium finish in the men's 500 meters, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist stopped training and started eating. He was competing at 85 kilograms, and in seven months, Mo had ballooned to 107 kg.

It took Mo two and a half years to get back down to his optimal skating weight. And now, Mo, 28, is gearing up for his third Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month.

"I think PyeongChang will really be a battle with myself," Mo said after getting in his tune-up race at the National Winter Sports Festival on Friday. "My times have improved and I am getting more confident by the day."

  

South Korean speed skater Mo Tae-bum competes in the men's 500 meters at the National Winter Sports Festival at Taereung International Skating Rink in Seoul on Jan. 12, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korean speed skater Mo Tae-bum competes in the men's 500 meters at the National Winter Sports Festival at Taereung International Skating Rink in Seoul on Jan. 12, 2018. (Yonhap)

Mo finished Friday's 500-meter race in 35.46 seconds, better than last year's Olympic trials when he made 35.59 seconds.

Reflecting on his trying years post-Sochi, Mo said it only took him a few months to regroup mentally, but a lot longer to get back on track physically.

"I didn't take care of my body at all, and I kept getting disappointing results in races," Mo said. "I want to prepare well for PyeongChang and post a strong time."

   Mo said the pressure on his shoulders is nowhere near what it had been leading up to Sochi, when he was the reigning Olympic champion. Expectations on Mo are admittedly much lower, too.

In Vancouver, Mo became the first South Korean to win an Olympic gold in speed skating, and two of his good friends, Lee Sang-hwa (women's 500 meters) and Lee Seung-hoon (men's 10,000 meters) followed suit. Unlike Mo, the two Lees have remained at the top of their respective games, with Lee Sang-hwa defending her 500-meter title in Sochi and Lee Seung-hoon picking up a silver in team pursuit in 2014.

"It gives me extra motivation to see those two still doing so consistently well," Mo said. "It's tough enough for me to try to keep pace with younger guys now. I'll try to engage them in some friendly competition and get ready for PyeongChang."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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