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Friendship between Korean and Japanese speedskater reunited

Friendship between Korean and Japanese speedskater reunited

Posted February. 21, 2022 07:43,   

Updated February. 21, 2022 07:43


The close friendship of two women that have led the world of speedskating over a decade- Lee Sang-hwa (age 33) of Korea and Nao Kodaira (age 36) of Japan is inspiring.

Lee, who visited the 2022 Beijing Olympics as sports commentator for speedskating, met with Kodaira on Saturday. Lee gave her friend a big hug, after waiting to meet Kodaira as she finished 500 and 1000 meter matches.

Lee could not hold back her tears as she watched Kodaira participating in the 500-meter speedskating match, which Kodaira ranked 17th. Kodaira looked for Lee sitting in the commentator spot and said “Hi Sang-hwa, how are you? I missed you” in Korean, which moved speedskating fans. Their friendship started as teenagers. Lee won the gold in the women’s 500-meter speedskating in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 2014 Sochi Olympics, while Kodaira won the gold in 2018, with Lee settling for the silver medal.

Lee called Kodaira by her first name instead of referring her as senpai (respected member of higher experience) and Kodaira treated her like a friend as well. “Though it has been a while since we met, it feels like I just met her yesterday, like we have been together,” said Lee. “I did not expect to enter the Beijing Olympics, but Sang-hwa’s encouraging helped me see hope. I joined as I felt that I could skate well in the presence of Sang-hwa and fans,” said Kodaira with tears in her eyes. “I hope you can put down some of your burdens and make yourself more relaxed,” said Lee to Kodaira as they posed for a selfie.

Lee posted the photo on her social media account, commenting, “We meet again in four years. Missed you! My eternal rival, colleague, source of motivation that drove me to the Pyeongchang Olympics – my friend and Olympic champ”. Kodaira left the first comment on the posting saying “We finally met! I was happy”. Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis and other speed skaters posted messages, sharing the joy.

Jae-Yeong Yoo elegant@donga.com