Korean skater places third in world championshipKorea's latest speed skating hopeful, Lee Sang-hwa, 16, placed third in the women’s overall ranking at the World Junior Speed Skating Championship round held in Seinajoki, Finland, which ended Sunday (Finnish time).
Ms. Lee came in 19th in the 3,000-meter race at 4 minutes, 42.61 seconds on the last day of the three-day competition, but had a total score of 172.2 points from four races of varying lengths.
Two-time winner Irene Wust of the Netherlands topped the list, followed by compatriot Annette Gerritsen. Lee Ju-youn and Noh Seon-yeong finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Ms. Lee gave a big boost to Korean fans by winning the 500-meter race on Friday in 39.93 seconds, ahead of Ms. Gerritsen, who finished in 40.04 seconds. This was the first World Junior Speed Skating victory for Korea in eight years, since Kang Mi-young won the 1,000 meters in the 1997 championship held in the United States.
The following day, Ms. Lee came in second, losing to Ms. Wust in the 1,000-meter track by only 0.02 second. Ms. Lee was ranked 16th in the 1,500-meter race the same day.
In December, Ms. Lee took part in the fifth World Cup Series, an adult-level competition, and was tied for first place in the 100-meter qualifying round with a junior record of 10.53 seconds. Last month, she produced the world junior record with a total score of 153.2 points from four races at the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.
The junior skater plans to compete in the next round of the championships in Erfurt, Germany next month. She also aims to compete at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
Ms. Lee is solidly built, standing 163 centimeters (5 feet, 4 inches) tall and weighing 62 kilograms (137 pounds). She started short track skating as a hobby while attending Eunseok Elementary School and then turned to speed skating.
“I would like to become a good athlete and help younger athletes,” Ms. Lee said. “I did not get to see my grandmother just before she died because of practice, and so I would like to dedicate the medal to her.”
by Park Su-ryeon, Limb Jae-un