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Lee Kyu-Hyuk, “The First Gold Medal Is Mine”

Posted February. 08, 2002 09:35,   


`No problem at the medal frontline.`

As the 19th Winter Olympics draw near with only one day left, the Korean athletes are in peak condition. They arrived at Salt Lake City 4 days ago, and were participating in each event’s local adaptation training even on the 7th.

Due to the schedule, especially, male speed skating rookie Lee Kyu-Hyuk (Chunchon City Office) is expected to bring the first medal to the team. His coaching staff seems satisfied as he is maintaining his best physical condition.

Lee set the world record for men’s 1500m at 1 min. 45 sec. 20, as he broke the previous world record by 0.36 seconds at the Olympic Oval Finale, which was held in Calgary, Canada, last March.

Lee held a disappointing record of 5th and 6th place in this year’s season world cup, but he is determined to win a medal in the Winter Olympics. As he observed Lee’s training, coach Jegal Sung-Ryul said on the 7th, "Things seem hopeful, as he is showing an unexpectedly good condition."

The competition will be held at the Olympic Oval, the stadium at which 5 world records were set in last year’s international tournament. Its ice is of good quality and the oval has sharper cornering than other links, which is advantageous to Lee who has excellent cornering.

Korea is expecting even a gold medal from Lee after its only medal in 1992 Albertville Olympics, where Kim Yoon-Man won a silver medal in men’s 100m.

Lee will participate in the 500m event on the 12th and the 13th, and in the 1000m and 1500m events on the 17th and the 20th. Although 1998 Nagano Oympics 500m winner, Shimizu Hiroyasu (Japan), and the world’s top skater Jeremy Wotherspoon (Canada) are to fight for the gold medal in the speed skating event, Lee and another rookie, Choi Jae-Bong (Dankuk Univ.), might also make history.

The Korean skaters went through drug tests, including blood extraction and urine test, on the day, and are currently getting ready with afternoon trainings at the Olympic Oval and evening massages. Meanwhile, cross country athletes like Park Byung-Joo (Dankook Univ.) worked on final warm-ups with freestyle training, and biathlon and alpine skiers also finished their morning and afternoon trainings without any injury. The short-track skaters will arrive at the Olympic Village on the 10th, after their `secret training` in the high altitudes of Colorado Springs.

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com