GANGNEUNG (Yonhap) -- South Korean Olympic speed skating champion Lee Sang-hwa claimed the silver medal in the women's 500m at the world championships here Friday.
Lee finished second among 24 skaters with her season best time of 37.48 seconds at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, Gangwon Province. Some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, the new arena is hosting its first international competition as a test event for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Lee, the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in the 500m, has struggled all season with a calf injury. She has gone winless in five ISU World Cup events this season, but picked up her seventh career world championships medal with a strong effort.
Nao Kodaira of Japan, who has gone undefeated in six World Cup races this season, won the gold in 37.13 seconds, her new personal best and the Japanese national record.
Yu Jing of China took third place at 37.57.
Friday's result bodes well for Lee's chances at the Asian Winter Games starting next week in Sapporo, Japan. Lee, who still holds the 500m world record with 36.36 seconds, will again have to contend with the likes of Kodaira and Yu.
Lee said afterward she enjoyed skating before partisan fans.
"Compared to some earlier events this season, I had a lot of fun getting ready for this competition," she said. "I am happy to post up such a strong time. I've skated poorly at World Cup events, but I was able to put that behind me and focus on this race."
Two other South Koreans finished out of medals, as Park Seung-hi, former Olympic short track champion competing in speed skating, ranked 18th at 38.52 and Kim Min-sun finished in 15th in 38.43.
In the men's 500m later Friday, all three South Koreans finished off the podium. Cha Min-kyu was the top performer at 12th, in 35.01 seconds, followed by Kim Tae-yun in 20th (35.29) and Kim Jun-ho in 22nd (35.45).
Jan Smeekens of the Netherlands won his first world title in 34.58. Nico Ihle of Germany got the silver in 34.66, and Ruslan Murashov of Russia finished third in 34.76.