Vancouver / Canada

The 500m Olympic champion is Tae-Bum Mo from Korea. Japan’s Keiichiro Nagashima took the second place, and his team mate Joji Kato joined him on the podium for the bronze.

 The 500m is the only Olympic Speed Skating distance to be raced twice. The two times are added to determine the winner. Tae-Bum Mo has to date never won an international 500m race in his life, but he is undoubtedly  the most regular of the skaters with two second place finishes at the Olympic Oval in Vancouver on Monday and a combined time of 69.82.

In the first race, home hero Jeremy Wotherspoon (silver in Nagano 98) got to 35.09. He couldn’t enjoy his lead long, as in the next pair Tae-Bum Mo skated 34.92. In pair 17 of 20, holder of the track record and World 500m champion Kang-Seok Lee (KOR) was paired with Joji Kato, former world record holder with 34.30. Kang-Seok Lee lost to Kato, but both of them were faster than Wotherspoon. With 34.93, Kato just missed the time of Tae-Bum Mo after a slight unbalance in a turn; Kang-Seok Lee skated 35.05. There was one skater who bettered the time of Mo.  Finnish Mika Poutala caught the attention of the audience by brushing imagined dust off his shoulders and bowing down, and waving two fingers of each hand in the air. His then went off in 9.55, comparable to what Lee and Kato had done, and with a good lap finished in 34.86. Neither Nagashima (JPN) nor Kyou-Hyuk Lee (35.14) could place among the top-3. Nagashima’s time was 35.10, which brought him in 6 th position.

So after one race, the order was Poutala – Mo – Kato as the only three below 35, then K.S. Lee and Wotherspoon.  In the second 500m race, the first to come close to the 35 seconds was Jan Smeekens (NED) with 35.05 reaching 70.21 in total. With that he passed Kyou-Hyuk Lee and Fengtong Yu who also did not come near the podium in the second race. Then followed a strong race from Keiichiro Nagashima. Opening in 9.64 he finished in 34.87, gathering a total of 69.98 points. He fell on the straight after the finish and lifted his arms with enthusiasm while his back was on the ice. His happiness grew when Kang-Seok Lee finished in 34.98 and got to a total of 70.04 points. Also Wotherspoon, who in the last 500m race of his career felt that he had a much better race than in the last Olympics, did not finish any higher: 35.18 brought him to 9 th after all. However, his pairmate Mo delivered an even better race than the first time with 34.90 and he took the lead with 69.82 points. Poutala and Kato came in the final pair. In spite of starting with confidence, the opening of Poutala was not as fast as before, and when he tried to compensate, he lost his balance in the first turn. “That was it, it was my own mistake”, he said sadly. Kato delivered a 35.07 and with a combined time of 70.01, the bronze was his. Poutala dropped – 0.003 second behind Kang-Seok Lee – to fifth place (70.044), Smeekens was sixth and got an Olympic diploma as well.

Mo commented: “I did absolutely not expect this to happen. I dreamed about it only. I’m even more confident now going into coming events”. His 1000m is usually stronger than his 500.