Lee wins South Korea’s only Olympic gold in speedskating

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — In the last speedskating event at the Gangneung Oval, Lee Seung-hoon delivered the Olympic host nation’s first gold medal.

Lee won the inaugural men’s mass start Saturday, highlighting a strong showing for the South Korean team on the final night of speedskating competition.

“It’s the first competition and at home,” Lee said after crying on the medal stand. “It’s been a long-time dream for me and unbelievable.”

Kim Bo-reum added a silver for South Korea in the women’s race. Kim was involved in a national scandal when she and another skater left their team pursuit teammate well behind in a qualifier earlier this week.

“I have nothing else to say other than I am so sorry,” Kim said.

On Saturday, Kim nearly matched the finishing kick of Nana Takagi, who earned her second gold medal of the games. She was also part of the Japanese team that won gold in the pursuit.

The Dutch collected a couple of bronze medals to dominate the 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 their best result ever with seven medals, including Saturday’s gold.

Lee, who also won the 10,000 meters at the 2010 Vancouver Games, punched the air with delight on the victory stand as many fans in the 8,000-capacity stadium cheered.

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.

The two Dutch skaters in the final sought to dislodge Lee throughout the tactical race. With four laps to go, 5,000-meter champion Sven Kramer went for gold but the Dutchman was caught just as he entered the final lap.

From then on it was a race between Lee, Bart Swings and Koen Verweij. But it was Lee’s skills on the tight final corner that allowed him to sprint for gold.

Behind him, Swings held on to take silver ahead of Verweij.

The women’s final had an equally thrilling final. Takagi blasted past the opposition in the final straightaway to beat Kim and Irene Schouten of the Netherlands. She became the only woman with two speedskating gold medals. Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis won two in men’s competition.

“I’m really happy,” Takagi said, “that I can end the Olympics in such a wonderful way.”