Seung-Hoon Lee (KOR) gave the home crowd their long awaited first gold medal in Speed Skating at PyeongChang 2018 on the final day at the Gangneung Oval. The 29-year-old Korean won the maiden Olympic men’s Mass Start ahead of Bart Swings (BEL) and Koen Verweij (NED).
Nana Takagi (JPN) won the first ever gold medal in the ladies’ Mass Start event on the final night of Olympic Speed Skating events at the Gangneung Oval. The 25-year-old Japanese thus seized her second gold medal at PyeongChang 2018, after having already collected the Team Pursuit title a few days before. World champion and home favorite Bo-Reum Kim (KOR) sprinted to silver, just ahead of Irene Schouten (NED), who took the bronze.
Mass Start makes its Olympic debut on the final day of the Speed Skating competitions at the Gangneung Oval on Saturday. Whereas all the other events in Speed Skating have a time trial format, the Mass Start is a pack race over 16 laps. The first skater to the line wins. “It’s different”, said Annouk van der Weijden (NED). “It skating with the head more than skating with the legs.”
Kjeld Nuis (NED) won the men’s 1500m and Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) took gold in the 500m, which makes them both favorites for the 1000m at the Gangneung Olympic Oval on Friday. But there are more men aiming at the top spot, such as Nuis’ countrymen Kai Verbij and Koen Verweij, Finland’s Mika Poutala, and German Nico Ihle.
Like Japan in the Ladies’ Team Pursuit, the Norwegian Men proved that a team can be more than the sum of its parts. Sverre Lunde Pedersen, Håvard Bøkko, Simen Spieler Nilsen beat the Netherlands in the semifinals and Korea in the final to seize Norway’s second speed skating gold at PyeongChang 2018 in the Team Pursuit on Wednesday.
Wednesday night the Gangneung Oval features the ladies’ and men’s Team Pursuit semifinals and finals in Speed Skating. It doesn’t only come down to speed and stamina anymore, communication and cooperation are of the utmost importance. In the ladies’ event Japan and the Netherlands are the ones to watch and in the men’s event New Zealand are aiming for a historical first ever Speed Skating medal and the second medal in total for their nation at the Olympic Winter Games.
Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) wiped off the dust of Norway’s speed skating history books on Monday. The 25-year-old sprinter claimed Norway's first Olympic 500m title since Finn Helgesen at the 1948 Olympics in Sankt Moritz, Switzerland. Korea’s Min Kyu Cha and China’s Tingyu Gao surprisingly seized the silver and bronze medals.
The Netherlands started their title defense in the Ladies’ Team Pursuit with a new Olympic record of 2:55.61. Japan finished a close second with 2:56.09 in the quarterfinals. Canada came third in 2:59.02 and the United States qualified fourth for the semifinals in 2:59.75.
The men’s 500m is arguably the most competitive event in Speed Skating at the moment. 17 different skaters took at least one medal in this season’s ISU World Cup. Håvard Holmefjord Lorentzen (NOR) and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix (CAN) are the only ones who claimed more than one ISU World Cup gold this season.
Republic of Korea made a mark in the Men’s Team Pursuit quarterfinals on Sunday night. Seung-Hoon Lee, Jaewon Chun and Min Seok Kim finished their eight laps versus Italy in 3:39.29 to advance to the finals with the fastest time. The Netherlands came second in 3:40.03. Norway (3:40.09) and New-Zealand (3:41.18) grabbed the remaining semifinal tickets.
Nao Kodaira nailed it. After a winning streak of 15 races in the ISU World Cup over two seasons the Japanese rocket exploded for gold and an Olympic record in 36.94. Home favorite and title defender Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) had to settle for silver in 37.33 and Karolina Erbanova (CZE) ran away with the bronze in 37.34.
It will be Korea versus Japan, Sang-Hwa Lee versus Nao Kodaira, in the ladies’ 500m on Sunday. Lee is the two-fold Olympic champion defending her title on home soil, but Kodaira has reigned the shortest speed skating distance with an iron fist over the past two seasons, winning in each of her last 15 World Cup appearances.
Hong Zhang (CHN) handed China the first speed skating gold, when she won the ladies’ 1000m in Sochi four years ago. This time around, she’s not high up the list of favorites. Her preparations for PyeongChang 2018 have been plagued by a long struggle to overcome the pain she feels in her knees.