“I tried to ignore the home crowd roaring”
Lee Sanghwa grabbed gold in the women’s 500m race held at the Adler Arena Skating Center in Sochi. She became the first Asian to retain the 500m speed skating title.
In the two-race competition, Lee skated a combined time of 74.70 seconds, with 37.42 seconds in the opening race and 37.28 in the second. She did not make any mistakes and remained unbeatable. Lee had a solid opener for the first 100m and raced her fastest in the first and the second lap.
Lee performed a lot better than she did four years ago when she outstripped the world record holder Jenny Wolf of Germany by 0.05 seconds at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In a televised interview immediately after the game, Lee said she patted herself on the back for a good job. She said, “I felt a lot of pressure to win the second straight gold medal. I am glad I was able to overcome that burden. I tried to think of this as just another competition, not an Olympic race, and I think that helped.” She added, “It really helped that Wang Beixing from China played fair in the second round.”
People say it’s up to heaven to decide who will capture the gold medal. For Lee, the gold medal was undoubtful. Last year alone, she broke the world record four times. She established the first-ever world record with the time of 36.80 at a World Cup race in January. Subsequently, she lowered her time to 36.74, 36.57, and then to 36.36.
The key to her victory was the strenuous training she went through. To get speed skater legs, Lee has been training hard on and off the ice. She did 170kg squats and cycled mountains. Compared to four years ago, she has brought the size of her thighs up by 3cm.
Lee had control over her mind as well as her body. Although she felt a little pressured by the Russian home fans in the first race, she kept telling herself to stay focused. “You do what you have to do and then just accept the result,” said Lee.
The foreign press praised the ‘Empress Lee.’ ESPN wrote, ”The South Korean lived up to the hype as the overwhelming favorite in women’s 500m speed skating.“ Others said, ”The Women’s 500m is the only race that wasn’t dominated by the Dutch in Sochi,“ and “Lee has set another new record and captured her second straight gold medal. She is unbeatable.”
Korean netizens cheered for her as well. Some comments read, “We know you have worked so hard for the last four years,” “Though I stayed up all night to watch the games, I don’t feel tired at all because of the great achievement,” and “We are so proud that you maintained your title in a field that has been dominated by Western players." President Park Geunhye also congratulated Lee and thanked her for the excellent job done.