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Japan's Nao Kodaira sets Olympic record en route to 500 meters speed skating gold

Japan’s Nao Kodaira celebrates after setting a new Olympic record in the women’s 500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The women’s 500-meter speed skating final on Sunday was never in doubt. Nao Kodaira of Japan sprinted ahead from the start and set an Olympic record with a time of 36.94 to clinch the  gold medal.

Kodaira, 31, entered the tournament as the favorite having won gold at the World Championships in the 500 meters, as well as the sprint, and is already the world record holder in the 1000 meters. South Korea’s Lee Sang Hwa the 28-year-old, two-time defending Olympic champion claimed the silver, but was distraught afterwards and had to be consoled by Kodaira. In a display of good sportsmanship, the two competitors from contentious nations embraced afterwards.

Kodaira’s gold medal ended a 20-year gold medal drought for the Japanese in women’s and men’s speed skating.