Lee Sang-hwa

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Lee Sang-Hwa, fastest female speed skater in history, retires

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Lee Sang-Hwa, a two-time Olympic 500m champion and the fastest woman ever in that sprint, has retired, according to South Korean media.

Lee, 30, had not competed on the World Cup since taking silver at the PyeongChang Olympics, where she was one of the host nation’s most high-profile athletes.

In fact, a pre-Games survey of 1,000 people by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism ranked Lee as the most anticipated South Korean athlete of the Olympics.

The self-described “Lego maniac” debuted at the Olympics in 2006 at age 16, then took 500m gold in 2010 and 2014. She also lowered the world record four times in 2013, bringing it to 36.36 seconds.

A right knee injury and the rise of Japan’s Nao Kodaira made Lee an underdog in PyeongChang. Indeed, Kodaira won in an Olympic and sea-level record 36.94 seconds, holding off Lee by .39.

“Actually, I felt pressure a bit to defend my title again,” Lee said after the race, according to Yonhap News Agency. “In the past, I was worried about falling from the top. But this time, she is the top dog, not me.

“Due to the knee injury, I had lost my sense of speed. It took a year and half to regain it. Finally, it’s over.”

A memorable moment occurred after when Kodaira put her arm around a tearful Lee, both skaters carrying the flags of their historically rival nations together in a show of unity.

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South Koreans identify preferred PyeongChang Olympic athletes, sports

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South Koreans are most interested in attending short track speed skating, the Opening Ceremony, ski jumping and figure skating at the PyeongChang Winter Games in February.

A survey of 1,000 people by the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism conducted in May resulted in 63 percent of respondents saying they believed the first Winter Olympics in South Korea would succeed. It marked an eight percent increase from an April survey.

About 40 percent said they were interested in the Olympics, a four percent increase, with nine percent saying they would attend.

The following events were the most popular for interest in buying tickets:

Short Track Speed Skating — 39 percent
Opening Ceremony — 31 percent
Ski Jumping — 30 percent
Figure Skating — 27 percent
Hockey — 23 percent

South Korea is of course dominant in short track. Of its 53 Winter Olympic medals, 42 have come in that sport, most by any nation.

Nine more came in long-track speed skating, with now-retired figure skater Yuna Kim taking the other two medals.

However, South Korea has never finished higher than eighth in an Olympic ski jumping event. The 2018 Olympic ski jumping venue has earned some attention, though, as it doubles as a soccer stadium for a club team.

Respondents also chose their most anticipated South Korean athlete of the Winter Games, with two-time Olympic long-track speed skating 500m champion Lee Sang-Hwa receiving the most votes of 79.

She was followed by another long track skater, 2010 Olympic 10,000m champion Lee Seung-Hoon, and short track skaters Shim Shuk-Hee and Choi Min-Jeong.

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Shani Davis out of the medals at World Championships for first time

Shani Davis
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Shani Davis finished fifth in his two best events, missing the podium at the World Single Distance Championships for the first time in his career.

Davis, a two-time Olympic 1000m champion and two-time 1500m silver medalist, finished 2.36 seconds behind Russian winner Denis Yuskov in the 1500m on Friday in Kolomna, Russia.

On Saturday, Davis was .68 behind Russian winner Pavel Kulizhnikov in the 1000m. Full competition results are here.

Davis, 33, is the world-record holder in both events and won a surprise World 1000m title last season, after contemplating retirement during a campaign in which he had one World Cup podium finish (a third place).

He is older than any previous World Championships men’s medalist in a distance shorter than 5000m, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl.

“I’m not a middle-type-of-the-pack skater,” Davis said last year. “If I’m not competitive with the rest of the world, and I’m sixth and seventh and eighth, whatever, then it’s not for me. I can happily move on.”

This season, Davis also has one World Cup podium finish (a third place from Nov. 20).

He struggled at the Sochi Olympics, taking eighth in the 1000m and 11th in the 1500m as part of an overall disappointing performance by U.S. speed skaters.

Later Saturday, Brittany Bowe earned her second Worlds medal in as many days, silver in the 500m behind South Korean Lee Sang-hwa, the two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder. U.S. Olympian Heather Richardson-Bergsma was fifth.

Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe were first and second in the 500m at Worlds last year and second and third in the 1000m on Friday.

Earlier Saturday, Sven Kramer captured his 19th career World Single Distance Championships gold medal and second in as many days.

The Dutchman won his ninth Olympic or World title in the 5000m. Kramer hasn’t been beaten in that race at an Olympics or Worlds since Chad Hedrick topped him at the 2006 Olympics.

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