Another day, another world record for Lee

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Another day, another world record for Lee

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Lee Sang-hwa of Korea, left, races Jenny Wolf of Germany in the women’s 500-meter race Saturday during the Essent ISU World Cup at the Utah Olympic Oval. [USA TODAY/NEWS1]

For the second straight day, 24-year-old Lee Sang-hwa broke her own world record in the 500-meter race, clocking a time of 36.36 seconds on Saturday at the International Skating Union (ISU) Speed Skating World Cup in Salt Lake City.

In the first race on Friday, she smashed her own world record with a time of 36.57 seconds.

On Nov. 9, she broke her own previous mark of 36.80 seconds set in January with a 36.74 performance at the ISU World Cup in Canada.

With her performance on Saturday, Lee became one of four skaters who have set world records four times or more in women’s 500 meters. The others include Catriona Le May Doan (Canada), Bonnie Blair (United States) and Christa Luding-Rothenburger (Germany).

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics champion has won all three 500-meter races in the World Cup - two in Calgary and the one in Utah - raising her hopes of winning gold in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

“I think she is in perfect shape when I see her skating,” said Kim Gwan-gyu of the Korea Skating Union. “I think she improved a lot, especially in the first 100 meters of the race, which was her biggest weakness.”

Analysts attribute Lee’s recent success to her improved strength and weight loss. Since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Lee has lost 5 kilograms (11 pounds) and concentrated on improving her lower body.

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. However, she finished the first 100 meters on Saturday in 10.09 seconds, which was the best among competitors.

Heather Richardson of the United States, who finished second at 36.90 seconds, turned in a time of 10.48 seconds in the first 100 meters and Wolf finished the first 100 meters in 10.29 seconds.

Lee did the final 400 meters in 26.27 seconds, which was also the fastest among competitors.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old short-track speedskater Shim Suk-hee won the women’s 1,500-meter race on Saturday in the 2013-14 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup held in Russia. Shim’s time was 2:25.106. She was the only Korean in the 1,500-meter final.

Since she joined the senior level last year, Shim has been won at least one gold medal in each of her last 10 World Cup events, becoming the ace on Korea’s short-track team.

In the women’s 500-meter final, she also won a bronze medal with a time of 43.266 seconds.

“I think we [Korea] will be in good shape in Sochi,” Shim said.

Korea has clinched a spot to compete in all short-track events - 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000-meter relay - in next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics.

BY kim ji-han, kwon sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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