(2nd LD) (Olympics) S. Korea secures at least silver in men's team pursuit speed skating
(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; ADDS photo; UPDATES throughout with semifinals results)
SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Friday secured at least the silver medal in the men's team pursuit speed skating event at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The men's trio of Lee Seung-hoon, Joo Hyong-jun and Kim Cheol-min staged a comeback to knock off the reigning Olympic champ Canada in the eight-lap showdown at Adler Arena Skating Center. South Korea will take on the Netherlands in Saturday's final.
The team pursuit event became a medal sport in 2006 and South Korea will earn its first medal in the event.
In the team pursuit race, two nations go head to head from the opposite sides of the oval, and their times are measured when the third skater on their team crosses the finish line.
South Korea clocked at 3:42.32, 2.96 seconds faster than Canada. South Korea trailed by 0.75 second after the first lap and fell another 0.35 second behind after two laps.
From left: South Korean speed skaters Lee Seung-hoon, Joo Hyong-jun and Kim Cheol-min take a turn during their team pursuit semifinal race against Canada on Feb. 21, 2014. (Yonhap)
South Koreans then made the move, and claimed a slim, 0.02-second lead after four laps. With one lap remaining, the advantage ballooned to 1.56 seconds, as South Koreans cruised into the final.
The Canadian team of Mathieu Giroux, Lucas Makowsky and Denny Morrison won the gold four years ago on their home ice in Vancouver but failed to match that feat this time.
Lee Seung-hoon will win a speed skating medal for the second straight Olympics. In Vancouver, he won the gold in the 10,000ｍ and the silver in the 5,000ｍ.
Lee finished 12th in the 5,000ｍ and fourth in the 10,000ｍ in Sochi, but has now salvaged his Olympics with the team pursuit medal.
The Lee-Joo-Kim trio reached the podium in three World Cup races between November and December last year, winning one silver and two bronze medals.
In the other semifinal race, the Netherlands eliminated Poland by almost 12 seconds with a time of 3:40.79. The Netherlands will be seeking its seventh speed skating gold in Sochi, and South Korea will be a heavy underdog on Saturday.
The Dutch team will feature Sven Kramer, who captured the gold in the 5,000ｍ and the silver in the 10,000ｍ in Sochi.
In the women's team pursuit race held earlier Friday, South Korea lost to Japan in the quarterfinals.
Kim Bo-reum, Noh Seon-yeong and Yang Shin-young raced their six laps in 3:05.28, finishing 1.29 seconds behind Japan. It was a rematch of the quarterfinals at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where Japan also prevailed en route to winning the silver medal.
South Korea fell behind by 0.83 second after the first lap and never recovered, trailing by more than three seconds with one lap remaining. Only the last-minute spurt made the final result more respectable for South Korea.