Nao Kodaira wins 500m gold medal, ends Lee Sang-Hwa's Olympic dominance

Nao Kodaira (JPN) continued her almsot two-year undefeated run in the 500m, winning the gold medal in PyeongChang...

Posted: Feb. 18, 2018 1:33 PM
Updated: Feb. 18, 2018 1:33 PM

Nao Kodaira (JPN) continued her almsot two-year undefeated run in the 500m, winning the gold medal in PyeongChang.

Kodaira did not succumb to the pressure that has been put on her by Japanese media and fans, and became the first Japanese 500m Olympic champion.

“I was the captain of the whole delegation of Japan this time," Kodaira said. "I know a lot of attention comes from the Japanese people. I knew that. All I have to do is ice skate as I am supposed to skate.”

Prior to PyeongChang, Japanese women had won just four Olympic speed skating medals. They’ve already won four at these Olympics.

Lee Seung-Hwa (KOR) has become notorious for crying after her wins, but today the two-time 500m gold medalist was emotional for a different reason. Lee finished .39 seconds behind Kodaira, earning silver.

Prior to the Games, Lee spoke about how a win in her country would be special. Despite not getting the win, the South Korean fans were still very supportive of Lee as chants of her name filled the arena after her race.

"I don't care about silver or bronze or gold, because I already have two gold medals for the Olympic Games, but it's here in Korea so it was really exciting to hear many Koreans cheering for us," Lee said following the race.

In a true show of sportsmanship, Kodaira consoled the two-time Olympic champion as the reality that she would not win her third straight 500m gold medal set in.

“She told me that she was still proud of me as I am proud of her because she did 1500m and 1000m so she did three races. We were talking about that,” Lee said of the encounter.

“Sport can make the world one together, it’s simple," Kodaira said to the media.

Karolina Erbanova (CZE) snuck into third place. Erbanova was paired with Kodaira and as is often the case, the gold medalist brought out the best in her. 

"It's amazing. I've been fourth in the World Cup so many times, and now the right time is there. It's like, really happy," Erbanova said after the race. "Yeah, it was for sure pressure but I had a really good pair. I knew it was going to open very fast. I knew if I could keep up, it's really good, and I was coming very close at the finish." 

Erbanova and Kodaira's relationship goes deeper than one race. The two moved both moved to the Netherlands following the Sochi Games to train with the Dutch national team.

“You just meet people as you go through your sporting career and you pick the things from each of them and put it together and try to choose what’s best for you and that’s what I tried to do,” Erbanova said of the experience.

U.S. speed skating reamains without a medal in PyeongChang.

Brittany Bowe (USA) was in first place following her race, but for the third time these Games, was bumped off the podium late. Bowe has now finished fourth or fifth in all three of her races.

"I really want a medal for myself, I really want a medal for everybody who's helped me, especially this past year and a half, getting me back to that start line," Bowe said to the media.

Heather Bergsma (USA) was not able to improve her dissapointing Olympic performance in the 500m.

Bergsma and Bowe will both likely compete in the team pursuit.

 

Erin Jackson (USA) made her Olympic debut and concluded her participation in PyeongChang. 

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