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[PyeongChang 2018] Speedskater Lee Sang-hwa goes for gold Sunday

South Korean Olympic speedskating empress Lee Sang-hwa is set to compete in the women‘s 500 meters speedskating against archrival Nao Kodiara of Japan at Gangneung Oval on Sunday.

Lee, a two-time champion in the women’s 500 meters, holds the world record in for the distance at 36.36 seconds, a mark she achieved in 2013. Kodaira, however, has fiercely threatened Lee’s record, establishing a personal best of 36.5 seconds at the fourth ISU World Cup Speed Skating competition in December last year.

Lee Sang-hwa (Yonhap)
Lee Sang-hwa (Yonhap)

As both skaters eye the gold medal Sunday night, experts predict sports will bear witness to a “36-second” match for the first time on a Korean track. The current best time in Korea is 37.13 seconds, which Kodaira clocked at the single-distance world championships at Gangneung Oval in February 2017.

If Lee claims the gold, she will become the second skater to conquer three consecutive women’s 500 speedskating events at the Olympics, following American speedskater Bonnie Kathleen Blair, who won gold in 1988, 1992 and 1994.

Kodaira has recorded 24 straight victories in the 500 meters stretching back to last season. On Wednesday, the 31-year-old skater collected silver in the Olympic women’s 1,000 meters.

By Park Ju-young (