Short-track team is aiming at Olympic Games sweep

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Short-track team is aiming at Olympic Games sweep

They’ve garnered 29 medals in short-track speed skating events over the past five Winter Olympics, 17 of them gold, including an all-time high of six golds in Turin four years ago.

Two of them were triple-gold medalists, cementing their country’s reputation.

Now, with the Games in Vancouver quickly approaching, everybody expects to see them on the winners’ podium again.

South Korea’s short-track skaters appear to have a fight ahead of them as contenders from China and several other nations emerge with strong showings.

Nevertheless, the South Koreans are confident of duplicating their compatriots’ success of the past decades.

Lee Ho-suk, 23, stands at the front of the 10-man squad, hoping to begin another gold rush for his country. He dismisses the idea that South Korea will lose its status as the world’s best in Vancouver without its champions Ahn Hyun-soo and Jin Sun-yu.

Ahn earned golds in the men’s 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter relay events in the 2006 Olympics, while Jin took the women’s 1,000-, 1,500- and 3,000-meter relay titles. Both failed to clinch tickets for Vancouver as they struggled with injuries.

“I will go for medals in the 1,500- and 1,000-meter, and hope for another one in the 500-meter event. We’re aiming at another gold in the relay,” said Lee, who was the runner-up to Ahn at Turin in the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter races. The two shared gold as teammates in the 5,000-meter relay.

Twenty-two-year-old Sung Si-bak is also expected to be a major contender as he makes his Olympic debut. Sung became the national champion last April to grab a berth to Vancouver, beating both Lee and Ahn.

“We will grab all four gold medals in the men’s events, an all-time high for the Olympics,” Sung said.

Expectations are mixed for the South Korean women’s squad, as none of its skaters were able to beat China’s Wang Meng in the World Cup competitions. Wang was the only non-Korean gold medalist of the women’s events in Turin, placing first in the 500-meter event.

But the South Korean women are determined not to let their legacy slip away.

“Our first goal is to take the fifth consecutive gold in the 3,000-meter relay event. Then we want to sweep all three medals at the 1,500-meter,” said Cho Ha-ri, the leader of the squad. Lee Eun-byul and Kim Min-jung, who progressed throughout last year, will likely also be big hits.

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