South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa will enter a national competition this week for her final tuneup for the 2018 Winter Olympics, her coach said Thursday.
National speed skating head coach Baek Chul-gi said Lee and other skaters bound for PyeongChang 2018 will enter the National Winter Sports Festival starting Friday. All races will take place at Taereung International Skating Rink in Seoul.
"With about a month left until the Olympics, these skaters will try to get into their rhythm through an actual competition," Baek said. The Olympics will run from Feb. 9 to 25.
Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa (Yonhap)
Lee is a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the women's 500 meters and will take a crack at a three-peat at the PyeongChang Olympics. She has also qualified for the 1000m, but at the National Winter Sports Festival, Lee will only race in the 500m.
In the 500m, Lee will be joined by Olympians Kim Min-sun, Kim Hyun-yung and Park Seung-hi.
Long-distance specialist Kim Bo-reum will skate in the mass start and the 5000m at the national competition.
Kim suffered a back injury during a World Cup race in November and is still recovering. She is seen as a medal contender in the mass start, which will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
On the men's side, Lee Seung-hoon and Chung Jae-won will be conspicuous for their absence. The two will race in the mass start at the Olympics, and coach Baek said the two will skip the national competition in favor of extra practice together.
The mass start is a niche speed skating event with all skaters starting simultaneously, with some physical contact allowed. Much like short track speed skating races, race planning and strategizing are of prime importance. Teammates often devise plans to help one another in the mass start too.
"These two are doing some short track drills to prepare for the mass start," Baek said. "We felt they could use more time working together, instead of racing in competitions."
Lee and Chung had their tuneups at another national event on Dec. 29 and 30. (Yonhap)