Pyeongchang 2018

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Lee Sang-hwa: five things to know about a legend in a land of speed skating superstars

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10:  Sang-Hwa Lee of South Korea competes in the ladies 500m during the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships - Gangneung - Test Event For Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Gangneung Oval on February 10, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea.  (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Even in the Republic of Korea’s strongest winter sport of speed skating, Lee Sang-hwa stands apart. She is the world record holder in the 500m and will be bidding for a third straight Olympic Games gold in PyeongChang 2018. Here are some fascinating facts about the superstar…

1. Family affair

Lee and her brother Lee Sang-jun both excelled at speed skating from a young age, which gave her parents a horrible decision to make. They could only afford to pay for coaching and competition for one child and they chose Lee, who was the more talented of the two.

2. Teenage star

Lee first competed internationally in October 2013, at the age of just 14. She also won the event, which was held in Canada.

3. A formidable record breaker

She boasts the four fastest times in history for the 500m, all set in 2013. She first beat Yu Jing’s world record in Calgary in January 2013, going on to usurp it three times in November that year.

“I think it is going to be fun to compete in the Olympics at home, though it will also be nerve-racking.

4. Torchbearer’s pride

The athlete was the 60th torchbearer ahead of PyeongChang 2018. She said: “As an Olympic athlete, I have long dreamed of running in the torch relay. It is a huge honour and to do it for the country makes it extra special.”

5. Gunning for a Games legend

Lee is bidding to match Bonnie Greer of the USA by winning three straight golds in the 500m. Despite South Korea’s speed skating pedigree, she was the first woman from the country to win back-to-back golds in the event at Sochi 2014. Prior to PyeongChang, she said: “I think it is going to be fun to compete in the Olympics at home, though it will also be nerve-racking.”


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