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[PyeongChang 2018] Veteran S. Korean cross-country skier bids adieu to Winter Games

South Korean veteran cross-country skier Lee Chae-won bid farewell to the Winter Olympic Games as she competed in her last event, in her hometown on Wednesday.

Lee, the oldest South Korean athlete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at the age of 36, competed in the women's team sprint free with Ju Hye-ri at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre, in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, where they finished last among 21 teams with a time of 19:17. 

South Korean cross-country skier Lee Chae-won (L) poses for a photo with her husband and daughter after competing in the women's team sprint free at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)
South Korean cross-country skier Lee Chae-won (L) poses for a photo with her husband and daughter after competing in the women's team sprint free at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

The race was Lee's final Olympic event in her career. She had already announced that the PyeongChang Games will be her last Olympics.

"I feel relieved that I got something off my chest, but I do also feel some regrets," Lee said of her last Olympic appearance. "I tried to be in shape, but apparently, I wasn't in good form and couldn't get good results."

Before the team sprint, Lee finished 51st in the 10km free, and 57th in the 15km skiathlon at the 23rd Winter Olympics.

Lee is considered the face of South Korea women's cross-country skiing. She has been competing in international competitions since 1999 and has won a handful of events in her career, though most of them were low-tier competitions.

The PyeongChang Olympics were Lee's fifth Winter Games. Her best finish at the Winter Olympics was at Sochi 2014, where she finished 34th place in the 30km free.

"The 30km race at the Sochi Olympics will be the one that I would not forget," she said. "I first thought I would not finish the 30km race, but I was happy that I could get a good result."

Some 3,000 fans watched her final race in PyeongChang, Lee's hometown. And the atmosphere she felt on Wednesday was different than usual.

"This is the first time that I've seen this big of a crowd," she said. "I never thought this place would accommodate this many people, but they really gave me and other athletes a lot of energy."

Although Lee's Olympic campaign is now over, she will not retire immediately.

"I intend to compete two more years," she said. "But I think competing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics will not happen."

(Yonhap)

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