Yanghun Chung, Min Seok Kim, and Seongyeon Park (KOR) during the Men's Team pursuit at the 2021 ISU Four Continents Speed Skating Championships in Calgary (CAN) @International Skating Union (ISU)
The Republic of Korea is the world’s leading powerhouse in Short Track Speed Skating and they are the best-placed Asian nation of all-time in the Speed Skating Olympic medal ranking too. With five gold, seven silver, and three bronze medals, Korea is in tenth place overall. Korea seized 13 starting slots for the Speed Skating competition at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Korean skaters have a tradition in the sprint distances and the men usually seized tickets for the 500m, 1000m and 1500m races, but did not qualify for the Olympic 5000m and 10,000m races. They will also participate in the men’s Mass Start and Team Pursuit events. The women's squad however qualified for three events; 500m, 1000m and Mass Start.
The first Korean Speed Skater to thrive in the international field was Bae Ki-Tae in the 1980s. After having won multiple medals in the 500m and the 1000m at the Asian Winter Games in Saporro (JPN) in 1986 and 1990, the Korean sprinter won the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships title in Tromsø (NOR), in 1990. Bae also skated at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Winter Games, but did not reach the podium. Kim Yun-man was the first Korean to seize Olympic silverware, when he finished second in the 1000m at Albertville1992 in France. Kim went on to win the World Sprint title in 1995.
On top in Vancouver
After the first medal in 1992, Korea had to wait almost two decades for renewed success at the Olympic Games, but when they struck, they struck hard. With Mo Tae-Bum winning the men’s 500m, Lee Sang-Hwa taking the women’s 500m title and Lee Seung-Hoon adding gold in the men’s 10,000m, Korea collected three gold medals to top the Vancouver 2010 medal ranking in Speed Skating.
Silver medalist Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR) celebrates during the medal ceremony for Speed Skating - Ladies' 500m of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang (KOR) @GettyImages
Lee Sang-Hwa went on to win a second Olympic 500m four years later at Sochi 2014 and added a 500m silver on home ice at PyeonChang 2018 Oylmpic Winter Games. Three years after retiring from international Speed Skating, Lee still holds the women’s 500m world record in 36.36 seconds.
The all-time most successful Korean Olympian is Lee Seung-Hoon, who like many Korean Speed Skaters started his sports career in Short Track. Before his 10,000m gold in Vancouver, when favorite Sven Kramer (NED) was disqualified for not changing lanes, Lee had already won a 5000m silver.
Ivan Skobrev (RUS) celebrates winning silver, Lee Seung-Hoon (KOR) gold and Bob De Jong (NED) bronze during the medal ceremony for the men's 10'000 m speed skating during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver (CAN) @GettyImages
At Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games he added silver medals in the Team Pursuit, and he also became the first Speed Skater to win the Mass Start event at the Olympic Winter Games in 2018, which tallied up to two gold and three silver medals. Lee is gearing up for his fourth Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Silver medalist Bart Swings (BEL), Gold medalist Lee Seung-Hoon (KOR) and Bronze medalist Koen Verweij (NED) during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Gangneung (KOR) @GettyImages
Although Lee Seung-Hoon is the most prolific Korean Olympian in Speed Skating, he is also a bit of an anomaly as an endurance specialist. Most skaters who will compete in Beijing will follow Mo Tae-Bum and Lee Sang-Hwa’s sprint legacy. In this season’s World Cups,Cha Min Kyu has not been very convincing, however. He’s ranked eleventh, behind countryman Kim Jun-Ho, who is placed ninth and will accompany Cha in the 500m in Beijing.
Kim Jun-Ho (KOR) competes in the 500m Men Division A of the 2021 ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomaszow Mazowiecki (POL) @International Skating Union (ISU)
Cha will also skate the 1000m, in which middle distance specialist Kim Min-Seok will try to improve upon the bronze medal he won three years ago. Lee Seung-Hoon and Chung Jae-Won will skate the Mass Start event and, together with Kim Min-Seok, they chase another Olympic Team Pursuit medal after the silver at PyeongChang 2018.
Chung Jae-Won (KOR), Sven Kramer (NED) and Livio Wenger (SUI) compete during the Men's Speed Skating Mass Start Semifinal at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Gangneung (KOR) @GettyImages
In the women’s tournament Kim Min Sun will skate the 500m and Kim Hyun-Yung the 1000m. They are ranked 9th and 31st in the 500m World Cup. In the 1000m World Cup, Kim Hyun-Yung is placed 19th and Kim Min Sun 22nd.
PyeongChang 2018 Mass Start silver medalist Kim Bo-Reum qualified for her third Olympic Winter Games. She will compete in the Mass Start again, alongside teammate Park Ji Woo (KOR). Placing 8th and 9th in the World Cup ranking.
Korean speed skating Olympian Kim Bo-reum is back on the ice rink preparing for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.https://t.co/aLGOs7xrqv— Korea JoongAng Daily (@JoongAngDaily) October 31, 2021
Matching their success of the home Games in PyeongChang will be an uphill battle for the Korean skaters. Four years ago, Korea won a total of seven (1G, 4S, 2B) Speed Skating medals to end up fourth in the ranking.