<
>

Lee Seung-hoon, Nana Takagi claim golds in mass start speedskating

Top favorite Lee Seung-hoon skated a masterful race to take gold for South Korea in the inaugural men's mass start at the Pyeongchang Olympics, while Japan's Nana Takagi blasted past the opposition in the final straightaway of the first women's mass start.

Behind Lee, Belgian inline skater Bart Swings held on to take silver ahead of Koen Verweij of the Netherlands on Saturday.

In a tactical race, 5,000-meter champion Sven Kramer went for gold with four laps to go, but the Dutchman was caught just as he entered the final lap. From then on, it was a race among the trio, and Lee's skills on the tight final corner paid off, as he unleashed a final sprint that no one could match.

Lee punched the air with delight on the victory stand as many fans in the 8,000-capacity stadium cheered.

"It's the first competition and at home," Lee said after crying on the medal stand. "It's been a longtime dream for me and unbelievable."

At 29, he is far from finished.

"I will continue training to prepare for Beijing 2022, but I think I will have to put in more effort to prepare for that than anybody else," Lee said.

It was the first South Korean gold medal at the Gangneung Oval.

In the women's race, Kim Bo-reum of South Korea claimed silver. Irene Schouten of the Netherlands was leading into the final straightaway but went too wide on the final corner and had to settle for bronze.

Takagi already was part of Japan's team pursuit that won gold earlier in the week. It was the third gold medal for Japan at the Olympic speedskating oval.

Kim had triggered public anger when she and Park Ji-woo left their slower teammate Noh Seon-yeong behind in the team pursuit quarterfinals Monday and then made comments that many saw as putting the blame on Noh. Nearly 600,000 signatures were on an online petition to South Korea's presidential office calling for skaters Kim and Park to be expelled from the Games.

After the race, Kim skated around carrying the South Korean flag. She stopped at one end of Gangneung Oval, laid the flag on the ice, bowed to the crowd, dropped to her knees and placed her head on her hands.

"I am so sorry for the Korean people," Kim said. "I am really sorry because I was in the middle of the big trouble."

The pair of bronze medals collected by the Dutch allowed them to dominate the speedskating medal standings again with seven gold and 16 overall. Still, it was much less than their extraordinary showing at the 2014 Sochi Games, when they won 23 medals.

Takagi made sure Japan was second behind the Netherlands with three gold and six overall. Norway was third, and host South Korea had its best result ever with seven medals, including Lee's gold.