South Korea continues to shine in speed skating as Lee Swang-Hwa wins gold in the 500 metres, the third medal for the country in the sport at the Vancouver Games.
Lee finished with a total time of 76.09 after two rounds, narrowly defeating German Jenny Wolf by just five hundredths of a second.
Wolf and Lee faced off against each other for both the first and second round. The Korean racer won the first heat by 0.06 seconds, forcing Wolf to play a little catch up in the medal round. The German skater looked up to the task at the start of the race, posting the fastest 100 metres of the day, but in the final thrilling stretch Lee caught up just enough to keep Wolf from stealing the gold. Wolf won the final round, but didn’t gain enough in total time.
Wang Beixing of China took the bronze, making the order of the podium similar to the 2006 Olympics. The three medalists finished in the same order in Turin–Lee, Wolf, then Wang–but only for the fifth, sixth, and seventh positions.
The top Canadian in the event was Christine Nesbitt, who finished in 10th place with a time of 77.57. Not favoured to medal at this discipline, Nesbitt viewed the race as a warm up to her specialty, the 1,000 metres, which will take place on Thursday.
“I kind have been using it [the 500 metres] for priming my system for the 1000 metres,” said Nesbitt to Sportsnet. “I like the 500 because even if things don’t go well, I don’t stress over it. I just think about the things I could do better and apply it to my 1000.”
Nesbitt, who is ranked 11th in the world cup standings for the 500m discipline, was pleased with her performance in both races.
Fellow Canadians Shannon Rempel and Anastasia Bucsis finished 27th and 34th, respectively.
Shut out of any medals were the speed skating obsessed Netherlands, in particular their superstar, Annette Gerritsen. Netherlands’ best hope for a medal in the 500m, Gerritsen had one of the fastest times after 100 metres in her first race, but fell moments later. Fellow Dutch skater Margot Boer came close to hitting the podium, finishing fourth.
Lee’s victory is not a complete surprise, but one of either Wang, Wolf, or Gerritsen were more favoured to take the event.
For Nesbitt, the surprise was the feeling of skating in front of a home crowd.
“I was so scared because everyone was telling me how loud it was and I just associated that with bad, but when I first got out there, the energy and excitement just transferred to me. It really helps.”