Lee sets Olympic record in surprise speed skate win

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Lee sets Olympic record in surprise speed skate win

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South Korean speed skater Lee Seung-hoon

Lee Seung-hoon powered to a surprise victory in the men's 10,000-meter speed skating event at the Richmond Olympic Oval early yesterday.

The 21-year-old crossed the finish line in 12 minutes and 58.55 seconds, winning the gold medal and setting a new Olympic record in the process. Sven Kramer of the Netherlands was the strong favorite to win the race and had finished over four full seconds ahead of Lee with a time of 12 minutes and 54.50 seconds, but he was disqualified for failing to switch lanes during the 17th lap.

"It's all a miracle," said the bewildered Lee in a post-race interview. "It's a miracle that I set an Olympic record but I can't believe that Kramer was disqualified."

The gold is the first for an Asian skater in a long-distance speed skating event, and comes on the heels of Lee's silver medal-winning performance in the 5,000-meter race on Feb. 14.

What makes the win all the more shocking is that Lee is a newcomer to the long-track race. Having skated in short-track events throughout his career, Lee failed to make the final cut at the short-track national team tryouts in April last year. After making the switch to speed skating last July, he competed in the 10,000-meter event twice prior to the Vancouver Winter Games.

At the national championships on Christmas Eve, Lee finished first with a time of 14 minutes and 1.64 seconds, and set the Korean record with a time of 13 minutes and 21.04 seconds at the Asian championships in Hokkaido, Japan, last month.

Skating without any pressure, Lee posted an eye-popping time in the 10,000-meter event, finishing a lap ahead of Arjen van de Kieft. In a race consisting of 25 laps around the 400-meter oval rink, it is rare for a skater to push for a final spurt in the latter stages. However, Lee's 30.29 seconds in his last lap was the fastest time of his race.

It is imperative for skaters in the long-distance events to have endurance and pace themselves well throughout the race. Lee's improbable time in the final lap is a testament to his strong work ethic.

"European skaters have a physical advantage. It's just not easy to keep up with their long strides," explained Lee. "Hence, it becomes imperative for us to maintain a low posture, but this takes a lot of strength. We worked tirelessly on speed and endurance training throughout the summer last year."

Although Lee shocked a lot of people by placing second in the 5,000-meter event behind Kramer, Lee was not projected to reach the podium in the 10,000-meter event. The Dutch champion had posted a time of 12 minutes and 55.32 seconds at the World Single Distance Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval last year.

"I was unaware of Kramer's mistake until my coach told me about it. It still feels good to have won a gold medal. When my place switched from second to first, I nearly lost my mind.

"I gave it my all in the race and I would like to compete against Kramer and beat him," stated Lee.

By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article

이승훈의 막판 스퍼트, 비밀은 두 손에 있다


1만m를 달려왔지만 이승훈의 손끝에는 힘이 넘쳤다. 다른 선수들은 지친모습으로 결승선을 통과했지만 이승훈은 마지막 직선주로에서 두 팔을 힘차게 흔들며 속도를 높였다.

마지막 바퀴(400m) 구간기록은 30초29. 자신의 25바퀴 구간 기록 중 가장 빠른 속도였다. 이 구간에서 이반 스코브레프(30초80), 밥 데 용(30초47)보다 빨랐다.

제갈성렬 SBS 해설위원은 “1만m에서 마지막에 이렇게 속도를 내는 경우는 극히 드문 경우다. 유산소성 파워 운동이라 경기를 지속할수록 몸이 굳어져 오는데 두 손을 치면서 스퍼트를 했다는 것은 심폐지구력에서 상대를 압도했다는 것이다”고 말했다.

스케이트 철벅지가 아니라 손으로 탄다.

체육과학연구원 윤성원 박사는 “스케이팅에는 팔과 다리의 협응(協應)작용이 중요하다. 손을 강하게 흔들며 손끝에서 힘을 뿌려 줄수록 스케이트 날 끝으로 전달되는 힘도 세진다”고 말했다.

이 때문에 스케이트 선수들은 모두 종목을 막론하고 하체 못지않게 팔 근육 강화 운동을 게을리하지 않는다. 많은 사람들이 스케이트 선수들의 튼실한 ‘철벅지’에 시선을 빼앗기지만 실은 팔의 힘도 그에 못지않게 중요하다. 팔의 힘은 손끝을 보면 알 수 있다.
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