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Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa set for pursuit of 3rd straight Olympic gold

2017/12/15 15:27

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SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa is now officially set for her pursuit of a third straight Olympic gold in the women's 500 meters.

The International Skating Union (ISU) on Friday announced the list of all skaters qualified for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The event quota places were awarded based on results of the season's first four ISU World Cup Speed Skating races.

The fourth World Cup race took place last weekend, and Lee ranked second overall behind Nao Kodaira of Japan after those four competitions. The top 32 skaters ranked by their World Cup performances, with a maximum of three skaters per each country, booked their spots for the 2018 Olympics, and the announcement was a mere formality for Lee.

In this Associated Press photo taken Dec. 9, 2012, South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa competes in the women's 500 meters at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Yonhap) In this Associated Press photo taken Dec. 9, 2012, South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa competes in the women's 500 meters at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Yonhap)

Lee, 28, won 500m gold medals in 2010 and 2014, and will try to join Bonnie Blair of the United States as the only skaters to win three Olympic titles in a row in the women's 500m.

But Kodaira, 31, has been unbeatable in that distance over the past two seasons. She has won all seven World Cup 500m races this season, while Lee has settled for five silvers and one bronze. Kodaira went undefeated in eight World Cup races in the 2016-2017 season, while also capturing both the world single distance championship and the world sprint championship in the 500m.

Lee is joined by two other South Koreans, Kim Min-sun and Kim Hyun-yung, in the 500m.

Lee has also qualified for the 1,000m as the 20th-ranked skater, but the 500m has always been her main event.

South Korea won't have any skaters in the women's 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m. Kim Bo-reum and Park Ji-woo made it to the women's mass start, and South Korea will have a team in the women's team pursuit.

South Korea will be represented in every men's race at the Olympics: 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m, 10,000m, mass start and team pursuit.

In this Associated Press photo taken Dec. 9, 2017, South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon celebrates his victory in the men's mass start at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Yonhap) In this Associated Press photo taken Dec. 9, 2017, South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon celebrates his victory in the men's mass start at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Yonhap)

Lee Seung-hoon, a three-time Olympic medalist, has qualified for five races: 1,500m, 5,000m, 10,000m, mass start and team pursuit.

Lee, 29, is the 2010 Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000m and won silver in the 5,000m at the same event, but the mass start is his main race now. He is the reigning World Cup overall champion and also ranked No. 1 after four World Cups this season.

Lee led South Korea to a team pursuit silver medal in 2014 and will once again be a leader, this time with two high schoolers, Kim Min-seok and Chung Jae-won.

Among other notables, Mo Tae-bum, a surprise 500m champion at the 2010 Olympics, qualified for that event in PyeongChang. Mo, 28, has fallen on hard times in recent years and will look to recapture some of his old magic next February.

In all, South Korea has qualified for 11 of 14 speed skating races on home ice.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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