Skater smashes own world record

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Skater smashes own world record

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South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa skates to a new world record in the women’s 500 meters at the Speed Skating World Cup in Calgary, Canada, on Saturday. [AP/NEWSIS]

Speed skater Lee Sang-hwa set a new world record in the women’s 500 meters at the International Skating Union (ISU) Speed Skating World Cup in Calgary, Canada, on Saturday - raising her hopes of winning the gold medal in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Lee, 24, won in 36.74 seconds, breaking her own previous mark of 36.80 seconds, which she set in January in Calgary.

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics champion, who won all eight of her races in World Cup events last year, got off to a great start in this season’s first World Cup event. Analysts attribute Lee’s recent success to her improved lower body, which she earned from hard training and weight loss.

Since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Lee has lost 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and concentrated on improving her lower body, which has gained her speed.

“In a short distance event, players generally tried to gain more weight as they considered stamina the most important thing to have,” Lee said. “But such thinking has changed recently. I have been trying to gain more speed by losing my weight.”

Her weak spot has been the first 100 meters. When she was overpowered by other competitors such as Germany’s Jenny Wolf and China’s Wang Beixing in the 2012-13 season, the difference came during the first 100 meters.

After working with coach Kevin Overland, the men’s 500 meters speed skating bronze medalist in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Lee found a way to improve her performance during the first 100 meters. Since then, her 100-meter time in seven of her last eight races was the best among any other competitor. Her 100-meter time in Saturday’s event was 10.21 seconds, also the best in the field. Furthermore, she has been working on 1,000-meter races, which has helped her to improve her stamina.

“I think I’m in good shape,” Lee said after the race. “But since the ultimate goal is to win in Sochi, I will try my best to show this level of performance in Sochi next year.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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