South Korea's Lee Sang-Hwa Sets Olympic Record in Women's 500-Meter Speedskating

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South Korea's Lee Sang-Hwa Sets Olympic Record in Women's 500-Meter Speedskating
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa set an Olympic record in the women's 500-meter speedskating event Tuesday, finishing with a combined time of 1 minute, 14.70 seconds to defend her gold medal.

Lee also took gold in the 500 meters at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, and she entered Tuesday's event as the overwhelming favorite after winning every event she entered on the World Cup circuit this season.

Lee's record time bested the mark of Canada's Catriona Le May Doan, who skated the 500 meters in a then-Olympic record 1 minute, 14.75 seconds at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Le May Doan had the advantage of skating at altitude in 2002, while Lee's record-breaking time was set at sea level.

Adding to the impressive nature of her accomplishment, Lee also bested Le May Doan's Olympic record for the best single-heat time in the 500 meters. Lee finished the second of her two heats Tuesday in 37.28 seconds, just .02 seconds better than Le May Doan's time of 37.30 seconds from 2002.

The only thing Lee failed to do was set a world-record time for a single heat in the 500 meters. Given that she already owns the record of 36.36 seconds, the South Korean Olympic legend shouldn't be too disappointed.  

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