At an age when most athletes find themselves on the downslope of their careers, South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon, about two months shy of his 35th birthday, isn't letting up.
Even with six medals from four Winter Olympic Games under his belt, Lee is still hungry. And if his recent performances are any indication, Lee remains competitive, too.
"My goal moving forward is to compete at the 2026 Winter Olympics," Lee said through his agency, IHQ, on Thursday, one day after capturing the men's overall title at the National Allround Speed Skating Championships. "I'll try my best to make that happen."
At the two-day national competition, Lee won gold medals in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. He finished third in the 1,500m and fifth in the 500m, good enough to rank first overall.
"I had so much fun preparing for these races. I am happy to have posted great results," Lee said. "I learned a great deal while competing against much younger skaters. I watched them put in so much work to improve their ties, and I think the future of speed skating is in good hands."
Lee, who broke through with gold in the 10,000m and silver in the 5,000m at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, also wants to be a part of that future.
At the national event, Lee won the 5,000m gold medal in 6:39.32, nearly seven seconds faster than Chung Jae-won, the 21-year-old who won silver in the mass start at the Beijing Winter Games in February.
For the 10,000m title, Lee also held off Chung by more than seven seconds at 14:06.05.
Lee's coach at IHQ, former Olympian Lee Kyou-hyuk, said his pupil hasn't lost a step.
"Lee Seung-hoon is skating so well that we can expect him to be as good as he'd been in his peak years," the coach said. "It's quite a feat that he won the overall national title over skaters so much younger."
Lee Seung-hoon holds the record for most medals by a South Korean athlete in Winter Olympics with six. He followed up his Vancouver breakout with a silver in the team pursuit at Sochi 2014, a mass start gold and a team pursuit silver at PyeongChang 2018, and then a mass start bronze at Beijing 2022.
In the current season, Lee nabbed silver medals in the mass start and the 5,000m at the International Skating Union Four Continents Speed Skating Championships earlier this month in Canada. Lee was the oldest male medalist at the competition, open to skaters from continents other than Europe. (Yonhap)