Korea wins 1st gold on longer track

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Korea wins 1st gold on longer track


Mo Tae-bum takes a celebratory lap holding the Korean flag at the Richmond Olympic Oval after winning the gold medal in the men’s 500-meter speed skating event yesterday. [NEWSIS]

Korea was expecting at least one of its two veteran medal hopefuls to win the men’s 500-meter long-track speed skating event at the Richmond Olympic Oval yesterday but earned its first gold medal in such an event from an unlikely source.

Mo Tae-bum, 21, making his Olympic debut on his birthday, had the race of his life as he blazed around the track to his personal best time, earning a gold medal in the men’s 500-meter event. The gold medal is Korea’s first in a long-track speed skating event since it started competing in the Winter Olympics at the 1948 Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Korea is a powerhouse in short-track speed skating, which takes place on a smaller 111.12-meter oval track within an ice hockey rink. On the other hand, large-track speed skating races take place on a larger 400-meter oval ice rink, making it difficult for smaller Korean athletes to succeed.

“The lack of interest from the media actually helped me to skate without putting too much pressure on myself,” Mo said in a post-race interview with Korean media. “Lee Kyou-hyuk helped me out a lot and I trained hard in the 500-meter as a way to prepare for the 1,000-meter. I think that led to an unexpected result today.”

Mo started off strong in the first heat, skating next to Finland’s Mika Poutala. He posted the second-best time overall at 34.92 seconds.

The second heat was delayed for approximately 90 minutes due to a problem with the ice surface after an ice-making procedure at the end of the first heat.

The unfazed young skater, matched up with world-record holding Canadian Jeremy Wotherspoon, kept his cool and improved his time to 34.90 to complete the event with a total time of 69.82 seconds.

“Today is my birthday,” he said. “However, I asked my family members not to attend the Olympics so I’m here alone. I feel like I’ve given myself the best possible birthday gift and it feels great.”

Although regarded as a promising skater with the potential to reach the medal round in the 500-meter event, Mo was considered less accomplished in the event than veterans Lee Kyou-hyuk and Lee Kang-seok. The Korean National Sport University student, who had won a bronze in the 500-meter race and gold in the 1,500-meter race at the 2009 Winter Universiade, is currently ranked second in the world in the 1,000-meter event, next to American Shani Davis.

Japan’s Keiichiro Nagashima (69.98 seconds) and Joji Kato (70.01 seconds) finished second and third. Lee Kang-seok, the reigning world champion and a bronze medalist at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, narrowly missed out on the medals, finishing fourth overall with the time of 70.04 seconds, while Lee Kyou-hyuk, whom many had tapped to finish first, came in with the disappointing time of 70.48 seconds, or 15th place overall. Lee Kyou-hyuk, who is competing in his fifth Olympics and still hunting for his first medal, will try his luck in the 1,000-meter race along with Mo and Lee Kang-seok tomorrow.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

모태범, 빙속 500m 깜짝 금메달 쾌거

한국 스피드스케이트 사상 첫 금메달리스트가 탄생했다.

“오늘(15일 현지시간)은 내 생일이다. 모든 국민에게 당당히 축하받는 경기를 하고 싶다”던 모태범은 이 날 한국 스피드 스케이팅의 영웅으로 다시 태어났다.

모태범(21·한국체대)은 16일(한국시간) 밴쿠버 리치몬드 올림픽 오벌에서 열린 스피드스케이팅 남자 500m에서 금메달을 목에 걸었다.

스피드스케이팅 최단거리 종목인 500m에서 그는 1.2차 기록 합산 69.82(1차 34초92, 2차 34초90)점을 받아 1위에 올랐다. 단거리 레이스의 ‘간판’ 이강석(25·의정부시청)과 이규혁(32·서울시청)은 각각 4위·15위에 랭크 됐다. 문준(28·성남시청)은 19위를 기록했다.

한국이 스피드스케이팅 종목에서 금메달을 따낸 것은 1948년 생모리츠 올림픽에 처음 출전한 이후 62년만이다.

모태범은 경기 전 “이곳 얼음과 나랑 잘 맞는다”고 했다. 빙판의 미끄러짐 정도가 좋지 않아 기록이 나오지 않기로 유명한 곳이지만 그는 자신이 넘쳤다. 실제 이날 그의 최고 기록은 34초 90으로 세계기록(34초03)과는 거리가 멀었다. 리치몬드 오벌의 500m 코스 레코드는 지난해 이강석이 세운 34초80이다.

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