Published: Sun, February 18, 2018
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

Japan's Kodaira wins Olympic 500 over South Korea's Lee

Japan's Kodaira wins Olympic 500 over South Korea's Lee

Nao Kodaira upset the home crowd at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics by denying Lee Sang-hwa a third straight gold in the women's 500m speed skating final.

Lee, 28, was in the next pairing but failed to match the time set by Kodaira, who also won silver in the 1,000m.

"Hanyu-san yesterday managed to get the gold medal so that gave me a lot of courage and really contributed to my race today".

"She raced after I had finished and I told her how well she had done and how much I still respect her".

Kodaira's blistering time of 36.94 seconds bettered the previous mark rival Lee Sang-Hwa, who was second here, set in Sochi four years ago. Lee finished second in 37.33 to take silver, while Karolina Erbanova of the Czech Republic took the bronze in 37.34.

In addition, Erbanova, who raced alongside Kodaira, was pulled along to a fine time of her own, taking second spot. "I think Nao gave me such a good experience being together from the early years", she said. She charged across the finish line, the 500-meter Olympic speedskating gold medal easily in hand.

Kodaira is just the second Japanese speedskater to win Olympic gold, joining Hiroyasu Shimizu, who won the men's 500 at the 1998 Nagano Games.

The duo performed a joint lap of honour afterwards and posed together with their respective flags in what was considered a moment of harmony between the two countries.

She became the third Japanese woman to win a Winter Olympic gold following moguls skier Tae Satoya in 1998 and figure skater Shizuka Arakawa at Turin 2006.

Kodaira put a comforting arm around the shoulder of a crying Lee as the crowd chanted the Korean's name.

"I'm really happy with my performance", Jackson said.

"I don't have any regrets", she said. She added her second title at the following Sochi Olympics.

The 500 used to be decided over two races, in which each skater had to start both in the inner lane and the outer lane once.

The quarterfinals of the men's pursuit event also took place on Sunday, with South Korea the quickest qualifiers for Wednesday's semis.

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