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Olympics-Speed skating-Japan's Kodaira wins gold in women's 500m

19 February 2018

South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa will compete for her third Olympic gold medal on Sunday, as the bobsleigh tandem of Won Yun-jong and Seo Young-woo begins their hunt for a spot on the podium in the two-man bobsleigh event at the PyeongChang Winter Games. Reigning world champion and now Olympic champion, Kodaira has dominated the event over the past few seasons and is now the first woman to finish the race in under 37 seconds at sea level.

Japan's Nao Kodaira won the gold medal in an Olympic record time of 36.94.

Two-time defending Olympic champion and world record holder Lee settled for the silver with a time of 37.33 seconds, 0.01 seconds ahead of bronze medal victor Karolina Erbanova from the Czech Republic. She charged across the finish line, the 500-meter Olympic speedskating gold medal easily in hand.

Afterward, Kodaira and Lee glided around carrying their respective flags in a show of unity contrary to the two countries' rough relationship due to historical disputes.

"I am here speaking calmly now, but when I saw I had gone under 37 seconds on this lowland rink, especially on this Olympic stage, I was over the moon", Kodaira said.

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"Sports can make the world one together".

"I surprised myself a lot", she said earlier this month.

Kodaira put a comforting arm around the shoulder of a crying Lee as the crowd chanted the Korean's name. "I knew that", she added.

Lee said she cried because she was relieved the race was over.

The Americans came up empty again.

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The inline skater only switched to ice last February and became the first black woman to make the USA long-track Olympic team.

The United States endured another day of disappointment, with Brittany Bowe ending in fifth place, ahead of the highest-placed Dutch skater, Jorien ter Mors, who beat Kodaira to gold in the 1,000m. "I was between nervous and excited before racing and when I finished everything, I was really happy".

The 500 used to be decided over two races, in which each skater had to start both in the inner lane and the outer lane once.

Fighting back tears at a packed press conference that was preceded by a congratulatory phone call from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kodaira said, "She (Sumiyoshi) has been in my thoughts so many times (here)". She will also be part of the team pursuit event with Bergsma.

The U.S. team of Brian Hansen, Emery Lehman and Joey Mantia finished last among eight teams in 3:42.98. "If you fall off by half a second, it ends up being three seconds by the end of the race".

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Olympics-Speed skating-Japan's Kodaira wins gold in women's 500m