Erin Jackson

Japan's Speedskater Nao Kodaira Smashes Olympic Record in Women's 500 Meters

The women's 500m will be one of the most anticipated events for the speedskating-loving host nation

Japan's Nao Kodaira smashed the Olympic record in the women's 500-meter speedskating race to take the gold on Sunday, beating South Korea's two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa. 

Kodaira, the reigning world champion, won with a time of 36.94 seconds. She  already won a silver in the 1000-meter.

Lee, who set the previous Olympic record in Sochi with a time of 37.28, took silver in the 500-meter with a time of 37.33. The Czech Republic's Karolina Erbanova won bronze with 37.34.

Lee had won the world silver medal in 2017 and finished second to Kodaira in five World Cup races earlier this season, through December. Lee struggled with a right knee injury last season, which slowed her progress and opened the door for Kodaira to usurp her as the event's top performer.

A dark horse contender was Austria's Vanessa Herzog, who placed fourth. The U.S.'s Brittany Bowe came in fifth.

Men's Speedskating Team Pursuit

In the quarterfinals for the men’s speeding team pursuit, South Korea led the way with a time of 3 minutes, 39.29 seconds.

The others teams to make it through to the semifinals: the Netherlands at 3 minutes, 40.03, followed by Norway at 3 minutes, 40.09 and New Zealand at 3:41.18.

Japan, Italy, Canada and the United States are out of medal contention.

The teams skate again on Wednesday.

The Dutch finally captured Olympic gold in this event in Sochi after two disappointing finishes in 2006 and 2010. In Pyeongchang, they have a good chance to do so again, armed with an arsenal of talented skaters that includes eight-time Olympic medalist Sven Kramer and two-time Olympic medalist Koen Verweij, who were both part of the Sochi team pursuit four years ago. Kramer helped the team to gold at Worlds last season.

Norway, the 2017 world bronze medalists, won two World Cup medals earlier this season. Among its top skaters is Pyeongchang 5000m bronze medalist, Sverre Lunde Pedersen, who helped the team to back-to-back medals at the World Single Distance Championships in the last two seasons (bronze in 2017, silver in 2016).

New Zealand has won only one medal at the Olympic Winter Games (silver in alpine skiing in 1992). The group is led by Peter Michael, who became the first speed skater from New Zealand to win a World Cup event in 2016, and several months later, the first from his country to win a medal at the world championships. In Pyeongchang, Michael finished in fourth in the 5000m, barely missing out on the podium. New Zealand won silver last season at the world championships and finished on the podium twice in the first four World Cup races this season.

The U.S. lineup included 2017 mass start world champion Joey Mantia and his Sochi teammate, Brian Hansen, who won Olympic silver in this event in 2010. The group also featured Sochi Olympians Jonathan Garcia and Emery Lehman. The U.S. has not been a medal contender in this event in recent seasons.

Copyright NBC Olympics - Pyeongchang
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