|South Korea`s Lee Sang-hwa compete in the women`s 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday.|
South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa put herself in prime position to claim her second straight Olympic gold in the women's 500 meters after Tuesday's opening race at the Sochi Winter Games.
Lee posted the fastest time in the first of the two races with 37.42 seconds, 0.15 second ahead of Olga Fatkulina of Russia.
The next races will start at 6:34 p.m. here (11:34 p.m. in South Korea), and the combined time will determine the champion.
Lee, the 500ｍ world record holder with 36.36 seconds, was grouped in the 18th and last pairing with Brittany Bowe of the United States and started in the outer lane.
|South Korea`s Lee Sang-hwa (right), and Brittany Bowe of the U.S. compete in the first heat of the women`s 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday. (Yonhap)|
Lee had a blistering start and recorded the fastest 100ｍ lap in the field with 10.33 seconds, and cruised on from there to take the lead.
Zhang Hong of China was in third in 37.58 seconds.
At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Lee won the gold with a combined time of 76.09 seconds. Lee, 24, is trying to become only the third woman to become a repeat Olympic speed skating champ in the 500ｍ, after Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Catriona Le May Doan of Canada.
Lee set her first career world record in January 2013 and broke her own record three times in November alone. She won all seven World Cup 500ｍ races that she has entered so far this season.
South Korea has yet to win a medal at the ongoing Winter Olympics.
Three other South Koreans took part in Tuesday's race. Lee Bo-ra was in 20th place in 38.93 seconds, while Kim Hyun-yung ranked 24th in 39.19 seconds and Park Seung-ju ended in 26th in 39.207 seconds. (Yonhap)