Reigning Olympic champions Lee Sang-hwa, left, and Mo Tae-bum pose with their gold medals during the award ceremony at the ISU Essent World Single Distance Championships in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, Sunday. Lee and Mo won the women’s and men’s 500 meters, respectively.
/ AP, Reuters-Yonhap
By Cho Mu-hyun
Korean speedskaters and Olympic champions Mo Tae-bum and Lee Sang-hwa each won gold in their respective long-track 500-meter events at the ISU Essent World Single Distance Championships on Sunday.
On the last day of the four-day tournament in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, Mo recorded a total of 69.64 seconds in his two races to beat second-seed Michel Mulder from the host nation finishing by just .01 of a second.
The 23-year-old Korean led the field after finishing the initial race in 34.80, but Mulder marked a personal best of 34.66 in the second race to close the gap. Mo needed to finish in 34.85 to match the Dutchman’s score. He managed 34.84 to win the title by a hair.
Mo has struggled with injuries since winning the gold in 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games after hurting his back and straining an Achilles tendon. But the Olympic champion went through intense preparatory training, shedding three kilograms for this competition. His gold medal marks the fourth for a Korean in the tournament.
Defending 500-meter champion and compatriot Lee Kyu-hyuk finished 14th in the first race and withdrew from the second due to ankle problems.
In the same distance for women, Lee Sang-hwa led after the first race with 38.03, and almost beat the track record of 37.6 with 37.66 in the second. She scored a combined 75.69 to become the first female Korean to win a gold medal in the tournament. ChinaYu Jing, the only woman to skate under 37 seconds with 36.94 in January, won silver with a combined total of 76.12.
The win over the 25-year-old Yu was revenge for Lee, as she finished as runner-up to her Chinese rival in the 500 meters at the ISU Speed Skating World Cup in Berlin earlier this month.