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Mo Wins Korea`s 1st Olympic Gold in Speed Skating

Posted February. 17, 2010 07:13,   


Mo Tae-bum yesterday won Korea’s first gold medal in speed skating at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Celebrating his 21st birthday in spectacular fashion, he won the men’s 500 meters with a time of 69.82 seconds at Richmond Olympic Oval, beating Keiichiro Nagashima of Japan by 16 hundredths of a second.

Mo is the first Korean to win an Olympic gold in speed skating since the country began competing in the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1948. If the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany is included, a time when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, Mo’s is Korea’s first gold in the sport in 74 years.

He is also the first Korean to claim a Winter Olympics event in a sport other than short track speed skating.

Mo’s main event had been the 1,000 meters. He took second in World Cup competitions before the Winter Olympics, placing 12th in the 1,500 meters and 14th in the 500 meters. Though he has competed in the 500 meters internationally several times, his performances had been lackluster.

Mo’s coach Kim Kwan-ku said, “Mo competed in the 500 meters as part of training for the 1,000 meters. We never thought he’d win the gold.”

Mo had finished second at 34.92 seconds in the first run, trailing Mika Poutala of Finland (34.86 seconds).

“I was also surprised at my first result. I gained confidence and put more energy in the second run,” he said.

The second run was delayed 90 minutes due to the condition of the ice rink. Mo then faced Jeremy Wotherspoon of Canada, the world-record holder in the event (34.03 seconds), in the second-to-last pair race.

Coach Kim said getting a better result in the second run than in the first is difficult, but Mo finished the second run at 34.90 seconds for a winning time of 69.82 seconds.

The final pair run was between Mika Poutala of Finland and Joji Kato of Japan. Poutala finished with a time of 70.04 seconds and Kato 70.01 seconds, giving Mo the upset victory.

Mo’s win surprised not only foreign reporters but also the Korean media, which was at a loss since it had little information on him. Most of the attention had gone to his two teammates, world No. 1 Lee Kang-seok and No. 2 Lee Kyou-hyuk.

At a news conference last month at Taereung Athletes’ Village in Korea, the two Lees were bombarded with questions but Mo got no attention.

Recalling that day, Mo said, “Nobody was interested in me at the time. Because of this, I was able to race with no baggage.”