Six years after sharing one of the most poignant moments in recent Olympic memory, two speed skating gold medalists from Korea and Japan, Lee Sang-hwa and Nao Kodaira, were reunited at the very site on Monday.Lee and Nao met at Gangneung Oval in Gangneung, some 160 kilometers east of Seoul, the venue for speed skating at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The oval is back in the spotlight this month as the host of speed skating races for the Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics.Lee is serving as a co-head of the organizing committee. Kodaira traveled to Korea as an Athlete Role Model (ARM) for the Winter Youth Games chosen by the International Skating Union (ISU), and has been sharing her wisdom with teenage athletes from her native Japan and other parts of the world.Lee, 34, and Kodaira, 37, are two of the greatest speed skaters of their generation.
Lee won the women’s 500-meter gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. She still holds the 500-meter world record with 36.36 seconds. Kodaira ended Lee’s Olympic winning streak with her 500-meter gold medal in 2018, with the Korean star finishing in second place. Kodaira set an Olympic record of 36.94 seconds then.After the race, Lee and Kodaira shared the victory lap in front of an emotional crowd at the oval. As Lee circled the ice waving her national flag, overcome with emotions after falling short of her third straight gold, Kodaira approached her rival and embraced her in consolation. It became one of the lasting images of the first Winter Games held in Korea, and the two were later recognized by the 2018 Olympic organizers with the 스포츠토토존 Korea-Japan Friendship Award.