(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, photo)
By Kim Boram and Kang Yoon-seung
GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Cha Min-kyu on Monday made a surprise run at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to capture silver in the men's 500 meter speed skating.
He clocked 34.42 in the men's 500m finals at the Gangneung Oval, just 0.01 second behind winner Havard Lorentzen. The bronze medal went to Gao Tingyu of China at 34.65.
The 24-year old sprinter, who was 9th in the 2017-2018 world ranking, has not been regarded as a medal contender in the men's shortest-distance event in the long track. Cha became the third South Korean Olympic medalist in men's 500m speed skating, following Lee Kang-seok winning bronze at Torino 2006 and Mo Tae-bum taking gold at Vancouver 2010.
He raced in the outer course of the track, in the 14th group, with Gilmore Junio of Canada. Cha's speed in the first 100m was not the fastest, but he surged in the remaining 400m to tie the Olympic record of 34.42, set in 2002, although that record was broken by 0.01 second by Lorentzen minutes later.
His record is close to his season best of 34.31, set at the Speed Skating World Cup last year
Cha's teammate Kim Jun-ho finished 12th at 35.01 and Mo Tae-bum, the Olympic gold winner at Vancouver 2010, timed 35.15 to rank 16th.
The South Korean medalist posted an Olympic record, which was soon topped by Lorentzen.
"I was surprised that my Olympic record was broken that quickly," Cha said. "But I immediately accepted that I was in second place."
The skater said he is still pleased to win an unexpected medal at the competition.
"I'm still satisfied with the second-place finish. My original goal was to get to the podium," he said.
Cha, who turned to long track speed skating from short track speed skating in 2011, said his experience in short track helped him go though the corners.
"Turning the corner is my strong point. I think this helped me a lot today," he said. "But I still need more efforts to skate in the straight course. I want to shift my weight more easily." Cha said also he consistently trained to improve running in straight line.
He added the enthusiastic support from the home crowd gave him a push to skate faster at his first Olympics.
Cha said there was no home ice advantage at the competition.
"Although I competed in PyeongChang, since the stadium is brand new, it was new for me just like other foreign athletes," Cha said.
While the skater said he does not have a detailed plan for the future, as his competition in PyeongChang just ended, Cha said he wishes to set his eyes on the 2022 Winter Games.
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