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Lee and Cha both scoop silvers

At ISU World Cup, their 500 meter races show great Olympic promise
Dec 05,2017
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From left: Lee Sang-hwa, third from left, on the podium after winning a silver medal in the women’s 500 meter race. Cha Min-kyu, third from left, on the podium after winning a silver medal in the men’s 500 meter race on Sunday. [AP/YONHAP]
Lee Sang-hwa picked up her third silver medal of the season during the third leg of the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup Speed Skating on Sunday at Olympic Oval in Calgary, Canada.

Though she lost to Nao Kodaira of Japan, it was quite an achievement, as Lee finished the race with a personal season-best time of 36.86 seconds.

Lee finished 0.33 seconds behind Kodaira and is second in the ISU World Cup ranking in the women’s 500 meters with 270 points.

In the five ISU World Cup races Lee competed in, she has won three silver medals and one bronze, and finished second in the overall category, behind Kodaira.

“The first two races were warm-ups and the actual game will start in the third and fourth event,” Lee said prior to the third event.

Lee broke the 37-second mark for the first time this season. During the first ISU World Cup race this season, she was about a full second behind Kodaira, but now, she has narrowed the gap to 0.33 seconds.

Sunday’s race has proven that Lee is picking up speed. Prior to the 2014 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Lee lost weight while maintaining muscle mass.

This allowed her to have a faster start than others, recording a time of about 10.2 to 10.3 seconds in the first 100 meters.

Last season, in the first 100 meters in the ISU World Cup series, she wasn’t able to record a time anywhere close to 10.3 seconds, but on Sunday, Lee recorded the first 100 meters in 10.35 seconds.

In addition, Lee seemed to have overcome her problem with starting in the out course.

Though Lee raced better starting in the out course, setting a world record, last season she lost her balance due to a knee injury when starting in the out course.

But this season, she kept her balance.

“If my pain level was a 10 last season, this season, it’s at about a one or two,” Lee said. “Normally, I take longer warm-up time, but due to my knee injury, I wasn’t able to do that. But now, I can spend as much time as I used to before.”

Kim Bo-reum finished 11th out of 16 racers in the women’s mass start with a time of 8:40.01.

The men’s team also added a medal as Cha Min-kyu won a silver medal in the men’s 500 meter race. Cha finished the race with a personal best time of 34.31 seconds, 0.001 seconds behind Alex Boisvert-Lacroiz of Canada.

Cha’s time was 0.5 seconds ahead of his previous best, and this was his first ISU World Cup medal in the men’s 500 meter race in a year, since he last won a bronze medal in November 2016.

In addition to racing his best on Sunday, Cha was also given a little bit of luck, as a number of racers who are better than him, fell during the race.

From a cut made when Ryohei Haga fell, Gilmore Junio of Canada also fell, as his blade got stuck in the same cut.

The two racers seemed to have affected the other in the group, as Havard Holmefjord Lorentzen of Norway and Ronald Mulder, the top two ranked skaters in the ISU World Cup this season, finished behind Cha.

Mo Tae-bum finished sixth at 34.47 seconds and Kim Jun-ho finished seventh at 35.5 seconds.

In the men’s mass start race, Lee Seung-hoon finished 13th out of 16 racers, with a time of 7:19.27. Previously, Lee won a gold medal in the men’s mass start and in men’s team pursuit race at the first ISU World Cup of the season at Heerenveen, Netherlands, in November.

The Korean national speed skating team will continue their season in the fourth leg of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, starting on Dec. 8. The Utah Oval was the place where Lee set the world record in November 2013.

BY KIM HYO-KYUNG, PARK SO-YOUNG [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]