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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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Who are Japan’s most visible athletes ahead of Tokyo Olympics?

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No surprise, Yuzuru Hanyu garnered the most major TV coverage of any Japanese athlete in 2018.

Nihon Monitor, a media research and analysis company in Japan, reported that the double Olympic champion figure skater received 186 hours, 26 minutes of TV time last year among six major domestic networks.

Other PyeongChang Olympic medalists made the list: figure skater Shoma Uno (fourth, 94 hours) and speed skaters Nao Kodaira (fifth, 87 hours) and Miho Takagi (sixth, 85 hours).

The only athlete in the top eight with Tokyo Olympic hopes was tennis player Naomi Osaka, who ranked third with 118 hours, one spot behind Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani (177 hours).

Three soccer players and yokozuna Hakuhō Shō rounded out the top 10.

Osaka, a 21-year-old born in Osaka to a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, has lived in the U.S. since age 3. She won the U.S. Open in September in a memorable final with Serena Williams. She captured the next Grand Slam, the Australian Open in January, to become world No. 1.

“Every time the Japanese press is at a tournament they always talk about the Tokyo Olympics,” Osaka said in June, according to the Times of London.

Osaka just missed the 2016 Rio Games. She was 87th in the world on the rankings cutoff date. The lowest-ranked player to make the Olympic women’s singles field — outside of continental/tripartite/host country representation — was No. 86. Osaka could have been ineligible anyway because she had yet to compete for Japan in Fed Cup.

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Two-time Olympic medalist Jennifer Rodriguez to be inducted into National Speed Skating Hall of Fame

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Jennifer Rodriguez, a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, will be inducted to the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame, U.S. Speedskating announced Friday.

The ceremony will take place Friday, June 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rodriguez made her Olympic debut at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where she also became the first Cuban-Amerian to compete in the Games.

At the 2002 Olympics, Rodriguez skated to two bronze medals in the 1000m and 1500m. She went on to compete at two more Games in 2006 and 2010.

“Learning that I was being inducted to the Hall of Fame this year, literally brought tears to my eyes,” Rodriguez said through U.S. Speedskating. “I am so humbled and honored to be able to receive this recognition. So many people have contributed to my success over the years, and this is for them as well. Thank you so very much!”

Rodriguez was one of the first inline speed skating world medalists to transition to speed skating on ice. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Miami with a degree in exercise physiology.

Additionally, Paul Marchese will be inducted into the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame as a Contributor to the Sport. Marchese skated for many years at the national level before beginning his coaching and technical career designing and building speed skates. As the U.S. technical coach in the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and private coach in the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Olympic Games, his technical innovations reshaped the speed skating landscape. Athletes equipped with Marchese skates have captured more than 130 Olympic medals over the past 30 years.

“I’m so very humbled to receive this honor,” Marchese said. “Speed skating has been a lifelong partner, providing so many opportunities that have defined my life and profession, and continues to bring my path across an incredible world of passionate people. I look forward to sharing an evening with my speed skating family and friends!”

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