Lee Seung-hoon sets Asian record to win speed skating gold

2011-01-31 22:23

South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon won the men‘s 5,000-meter race at the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan Monday, grabbing one of four gold medals for South Korea on the successful first day of competition.

At the Indoor Speed Skating Stadium in Astana, Lee topped the pack at 6:25.55, breaking his own Asian record by about 0.8 seconds. This is the first career Winter Asiad gold for Lee, who won silver in the distance at the Vancouver Winter Olympics a year ago.

Lee is trying to win four gold medals in Astana. He will race in the 10,000m event, plus team pursuit and mass start this week.
Speed skater Lee Seung-hoon bites his gold medal after winning the men‘s 5,000-meter race at the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan on Monday. (Yonhap News)

The silver medal went to Dmitriy Babenko of Kazakhstan who clocked in at 6:28.40. Hiroki Hirako of Japan finished third at 6:33.66.

Earlier Monday, South Korea swept up gold and silver medals in both men’s and women‘s 1,500-meter short track speed skating.

On the track at the National Indoor Cycle Arena in Astana, Noh Jin-kyu and Um Cheon-ho finished first and second in the men’s race. The two got ahead of the pack with six laps to go in the 13-and-half lap competition, and didn‘t lose their lead the rest of the way.

Noh clocked in at 2:18.998, with Um at 2:19.337. Liu Xianwei of China took the bronze at 2:19.622.

Moments earlier on the same rink, South Korea’s Cho Ha-ri and Park Seung-hi won gold and silver medals in the ladies‘ 1,500m event.

Cho won the nail-biting final with the time of 2:38.442 with Park a close second at 2:38.621. Biba Sakurai of Japan won the bronze at 2:38.724.

Park first took the lead with eight laps to go, and then Cho charged ahead in the next lap. Then it was the battle between the two South Koreans and Zhou Yang of China, the world record holder in the distance.

But the South Koreans held their ground and Zhou actually slipped to fourth at the finish.

This is the fourth straight Winter Asiad gold for South Korea in this event.

Noh, 18, is a former junior world champion who made his Winter Asiad debut. He said he and Um felt pressure to match their female teammates’ one-two finish earlier, but he gained confidence as the race went on.

“If I started out too far behind, I felt I would run out of gas (trying to catch up),” Noh said. “So I wanted to start out at the front of the pack. I‘ve worked hard for this Winter Asiad and everything has been geared toward this event.”

The country’s first gold medal came from alpine skiing. Kim Sun-joo took the ladies‘ downhill event at 1:37.61 seconds in Almaty. This was the first time that the ladies’ downhill has been included in Asian Winter Games.

Earlier Monday, South Korea‘s first medal also came from the ski slope, where Jung Dong-hyun grabbed bronze in the men’s downhill event.

The 22-year-old crossed the line at 1:29.78, 2.26 seconds behind the gold medalist, Dmitriy Koshkin of Kazakhstan. It was Jung‘s first international downhill event.

In speed skating, Kim Bo-reum grabbed silver in the ladies’ 3,000m at 4:10.54, 2.72 seconds behind the winner Masako Hozumi of Japan. Kim, 17, shed nearly 14 seconds off her previous personal best.

Almaty and Astana are splitting snow and ice events for this year‘s Asian Winter Games, which will run through Sunday. 

(Yonhap News)