South Korean veteran Lee Seung-hoon has opened the new World Cup season with two gold medals.
Lee won the men's mass start title at the first leg of the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen, Netherlands, on Saturday (local time). Lee had won the team pursuit gold medal the previous day.
|In this Associated Press photo, Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea celebrates his victory at the men`s mass start in the opening leg of the International Skating Union World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen, Netherlands, on Nov. 11, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Lee ended the 2016-2017 World Cup season as the No. 1-ranked skater in the mass start, which will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang next February. All skaters start simultaneously in the mass start, which allows for some physical contact. The niche event plays out like a short track race, as it requires race strategies and deft cornering, and Lee, a former short track speed skater, hasthrived in the mass start.
In the 16-man final in Heerenveen, Lee began the race in the middle of the pack. Then with three laps remaining, Jorrit Bergsmas of the Netherlands moved out in front and Lee was right behind him. American Joey Mantia soon skated ahead of Lee, who bided his time over the final stretch and beat Mantia by 0.45 second to win the title in 7:36.42.
Fellow South Korean Chung Jae-won took third place in 7:37.27 in his first mass start race.
On the women's side, Lee Sang-hwa finished second in the 500m for the second straight day.
Lee, two-time reigning Olympic champion in the 500m, was clocked at 37.53 seconds, 0.2 second behind Nao Kodaira of Japan. Kodaira had also won the first 500m final on Friday in 37.29 seconds, 0.31 ahead of her South Korean rival.
The four World Cup competitions this season will serve as qualifying events for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, as they will decide quota places for each country.
A total of 180 speed skaters -- 100 men and 80 women -- will compete in PyeongChang, and the quota places will be allocated based on the points rankings and time rankings at the World Cup races.
Each nation can earn a maximum three quota places for the men's and women's 500, 1,000m and 1,500, men's 5,000m, and women's 3,000. Two quota places per country will be allowed for the men's 10,000m, women's 5,000m and mass start for the men and women. Countries will only be able to send one team each in the team pursuit.
For countries that secure a quota place in all events, the overall quota per country will be a maximum 10 each for men and women. (Yonhap)