Japan's Kodaira wins gold in women's 500m

1 / 2

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics

Speed Skating - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's 500m competition finals - Gangneung Oval - Gangneung, South Korea - February 18, 2018 - Nao Kodaira of Japan competes. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Nao Kodaira stormed to gold in the women's 500 metres in an Olympic record time of 36.94 seconds at the Gangneung Oval on Sunday, becoming the first female speed skater from Japan to win an Olympic title in an individual event.

Defending champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea settled for silver, while Karolina Erbanova of the Czech Republic won the bronze medal.

Kodaira, the reigning world champion, has dominated the distance over the past season and shaved 0.34 seconds off the previous record set by Lee at the Sochi Games four years ago.

Lee, who won back-to-back titles in the shortest speed-skating distance at the last two Olympics, suffered a chronic knee injury last year and though Kodaira won the day, it was the Korean who drew the loudest cheers from the packed Oval.

The race was the first speed-skating event at the Oval in which no Dutch skaters finished on the podium.

Kodaira, who also won silver in the women's 1,000m on Wednesday, joins Tomomi Okazaki, who won bronze at the Nagano Games in 1998, as the only Japanese skaters to win a medal in the event.

She got off to a lightning quick start over the first 100 metres and flew around the track and although Lee started quicker than her rival, she could not maintain her momentum on the back straight.

The 28-year-old crowd favourite still managed to finish 0.01 seconds ahead of Erbanova for her first medal of the Games.

The United States endured another day of disappointment, with Brittany Bowe ending in fifth place, ahead of the highest-placed Dutch skater, Jorien ter Mors, who beat Kodaira to gold in the 1,000m.


(Reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Clare Fallon)