Veteran South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon said Tuesday he's wary of emerging European rivals in his main event ahead of the Winter Olympics on home ice.
Lee returned home after winning the men's mass start gold at the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating Final in Stavanger, Norway, on Sunday.
|South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport on March 14, 2017. (Yonhap)|
He beat Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands by 0.09 second for his second ISU World Cup mass start title of the season. Bart Swings of Belgium finished in third.
Lee also finished the World Cup season as the first overall in the mass start with 412 points.
In the mass start, skaters all start simultaneously, with some physical contact allowed. Shrewd race planning is a requirement, and Lee, a former short track speed skater, has thrived in the niche event.
Often in the mass start, skaters try to strategically help one particular teammate by keeping others in check during the 16-lap race. And Lee said he felt some European skaters had joined forces to keep him off the podium in Norway.
"I won't have any help unless I have a teammate in the race, and so I'll need to come up with some countermeasures," Lee told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "If I am out there alone and others are trying to keep me at bay, then it's going to be hard to win races. I have to try to crack through what little room there is to exploit."
At last weekend's race, Lee deliberately stayed back in the pack until the very late stages, and claimed the lead during the final lap.
"I trailed Bergsma quite a bit, but I was confident I could catch him," Lee said. "I was able to win the gold because the race went exactly as I planned."
Lee won the 2010 Olympic gold in the 10,000m, but has since focused on the mass start, which will make its Olympic debut in South Korea's PyeongChang next year.
Lee said he was satisfied with the way he wrapped up this season, and he'd expect nothing less than a medal in PyeongChang.
"This will be my third Olympics, and it feels different than the past ones because it will be at home," Lee said. "And I won't just be content with competing at the Olympics. My ultimate goal is to win a medal." (Yonhap)