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Two-time Olympic speed skating champion Lee Sang-hwa announces retirement

Sports 15:48 May 10, 2019

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) -- Two-time Olympic speed skating gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa announced her retirement Friday, putting an end to an illustrious career that includes a world record and multiple world championships.

In a press release, Lee, 30, said she will have a formal retirement ceremony in Seoul next Thursday.

In this file photo from Feb. 20, 2018, South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa wipes away tears during the medal ceremony for the women's 500 meters at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at the PyeongChang Medal Plaza in PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Lee will go down as one of South Korea's greatest winter sport athletes ever and also among the very best speed skaters of her generation.

Lee won the gold medal in the women's 500 meters at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and repeated as the Olympic champion four years later in Sochi, Russia.

In between these two Olympics, Lee broke four world records. Her mark of 36.36 seconds, set on Nov. 16, 2013, in Salt Lake City, Utah, remains the gold standard in the women's 500m.

In the lead-up to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last year on home ice, Lee battled nagging left knee and right calf injuries. Her Japanese rival, Nao Kodaira, started beating Lee with regularity at international events, leading to whispers that Lee was finished as a top-level skater.

In this file photo from Feb. 11, 2014, South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa competes in the women's 500 meters at the Sochi Winter Olympics at Adler Arena Skating Center in Sochi, Russia. (Yonhap)

Lee bounced back in time to take the silver medal behind Kodaira at PyeongChang 2018, a gutsy performance that silenced naysayers but also signaled the nearing end.

Lee hasn't competed since the end of the Olympics and finally ended speculation about her future in skating by calling it quits Friday.

In this file photo from Feb. 18, 2018, Nao Kodaira of Japan (R) embraces Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea after winning the gold medal in the women's 500-meter speed skating race at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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