[PyeongChang 2018] Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa undecided on Beijing 2022

By Yonhap
  • Published : Feb 19, 2018 - 16:01
  • Updated : Feb 19, 2018 - 16:01

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- South Korean female speed skater Lee Sang-hwa, who captured her third Olympic medal in the women's 500 meter at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, on Monday said she is undecided on whether to retire or continue her career towards Beijing.

"I cannot give a concrete answer now," Lee told reporters during a press conference hosted by the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee when asked about her future career path. "The competition just ended yesterday. I want to take a good rest for now. The Beijing Winter Games is a story far away."

Lee, a two-time Olympic champion at Vancouver and Sochi, clocked 37.33 in the race held on Saturday, 0.39 second behind winner Nao Kodaira of Japan.

Lee Sang-hwa (Yonhap)

Still, regardless of the color of the medal, the 28-year-old stands as a legendary skater in South Korea. Lee was the first skater in Asia to win gold in the 500m at the Olympics and also became the first Asian to win three consecutive medals in the distance.

Due to her legendary performances, Lee's future path after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has also become of major interest to skaters around the globe.

Despite hinting earlier at retiring from the ice after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang, she refrained from taking a clear stance on the future after the latest 500m race, also expressing the possibility of continuing her journey.

"Although it may not be an Olympics, I think it would be right to skate for a year or two as long as I have the capabilities," Lee said.

The sprinter said the four-year preparations for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics after Sochi were really burdensome. Accordingly, the two-time champion said if she really continues skating after PyeongChang, she will seek to fully enjoy competitions without pressure.

"I did not skate in PyeongChang thinking it would be my last. I was afraid of falling into idleness. I think that also helped me to earn silver," she said.

Lee, who burst into tears after winning silver in the 500m race, said she cried after feeling freed from pressures and burdens.

"I lost my senses after suffering injuries and took a long time to recover. I had a hard time," Lee said looking back on her preparations for PyeongChang after the 2014 Winter Games.

The medalist, reiterating that it is too early to say her future plans in detail, claimed she wishes to take a break for now.

"I have set seven different alarms. Now, I want to turn them all off and wake up at the time I like, eat the foods I want and do everything I desire," Lee said. "I want to put down everything and really take a break."

The skater said she did not watch the video of the 500m race after returning to her dorm, saying she is saving it for the future.

"I did make a mistake on the final corner, so (watching the video) would disappoint me. I will watch it at some time far away," Lee said.

Lee nevertheless said she is not disappointed about her Olympic record being surpassed by Nao Kodaira of Japan.

"My world record will be broken again someday. I have no attachment to it. I am satisfied that I once set the record," Lee said.

The sprinter currently holds the world record of 36.36 set in 2013. Kodaira finished Sunday's race at 36.94, an Olympic record.

"I want to remain as a legendary athlete. I wish people can say, someday in the future, there was a South Korean sprinter like myself. And it seems I am already a legend," Lee said smiling, adding that she wishes to be given full credit for being a skater who endured through hardships without giving up. (Yonhap)