South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa has collected her third silver medal of the current World Cup season, watching her Japanese rival Nao Kodaira remain undefeated.
Lee finished second to Kodaira in the women's 500 meters in the third leg of the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Calgary, Canada, on Sunday (local time). With a time of 36.86 seconds, Lee finished 0.33 second behind Kodaira, who broke her personal best with 36.53 seconds to win her fifth consecutive World Cup 500m race this season.
Lee is the two-time reigning Olympic champion in the 500m and also the world record holder with 36.36 seconds, but the 28-year-old has been overtaken by Kodaira over the past two seasons. The 31-year-old Japanese was undefeated in eight World Cup races in the 2016-2017 season and also captured both the world single distance championship and the sprint championship in the 500m.
The one saving grace from the two's latest showdown was that Lee cracked 37 seconds for the first time this season. She struggled at the previous World Cup stop in Stavanger, Norway, last month, finishing third and seventh in two 500m races.
In this EPA photo, Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea skates in the ladies` 500 meters at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup Speed Skating in Calgary, Canada, on Dec. 3, 2017. (Yonhap)
In the men's 500m, South Korean Cha Min-kyu claimed the silver medal with a new personal-best time of 34.31 seconds. Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Canada beat him by 0.001 second for the title.
Cha caught a break to win his first World Cup medal of the season. He and Boisvert-Lacroix were in the third of the 10 pairings, with the season's top skaters stacked in the back of the pack.
But in the fourth pairing, Ryohei Haga of Japan crashed and took Ruslan Murashov of Russia down with him. The incident left a dent on the ice, and following the resurfacing, pre-race favorites, perhaps rattled by the unexpected turn of events, couldn't beat either Cha or Boisvert-Lacroix.
The final pairing featured Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen of Norway and Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands, who had been first and second in the World Cup rankings, and they only finished fifth and fourth, respectively.
Lee's and Cha's silvers were the only medals for South Korea in Calgary. In the men's mass start, Lee Seung-hoon finished in a disappointing 13th place among 16 skaters. Lee won the first World Cup mass start of the season in Heerenveen, Netherlands, last month.
In the women's mass start, Kim Bo-reum made her first appearance of the season and ended up in 11th place among 16 finalists. Kim suffered a back injury in a fall during the semifinals at the first World Cup.
Both Lee and Kim won the overall World Cup titles in the mass start last season.
The first four out of six World Cup competitions this season will serve as qualifying events for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, as they will decide quota places for each country.
A total of 180 speed skaters -- 100 men and 80 women -- will compete in PyeongChang, and the quota places will be allocated based on the points rankings and time rankings at the World Cup races.
Each nation can earn a maximum three quota places for the men's and women's 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m, men's 5,000m and women's 3,000m. Two quota places per country will be allowed for the men's 10,000m, women's 5,000m, and mass start for the men and women. Countries will only be able to send one team each in the team pursuit.
For countries that secure a quota place in all events, the overall quota per country will be a maximum 10 each for men and women. (Yonhap)