Two-time Olympic champion Lee Sang-hwa left for Calgary, Canada for training.
"My goal for this season is to win the World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Gangneung from Feb. 9 to 12," she said just ahead of her departure to Calgary on Jan. 1. "Rather than exhausting myself by competing in many competitions, I will try to produce good results in big meets until the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year."
Lee's clock is set for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, and everything that she does is for the Olympics. "I hope to finish each competition without an injury until the Olympics. I want to enjoy my race without feeling the pressure until then."
She has been suffering from a chronic knee injury and cannot compete like her hey days in her early 20s. Doctors advised her to go under the knife to treat the pain, but as it may put her career at risk, Lee plans to manage until the Olympics without an operation.
Lee, who won a gold medal in women's 500 m in 2010 and 2014, wants to end her career on a high note by winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals. Bonnie Blair of the U.S. is the only woman athlete to do so in women's 500 m, in 1988, 1992 and 1996.
Lee is strictly focusing on what will be the final race of her career. She does not spend much time away from the ice.
"I barely have time to do other things except training, so I can't really think about my hobby of playing with Lego. I used to get my nails done regularly, but I get to have them done occasionally if I find spare time," she said.
Lee is more excited than pressured about the Olympics on home turf. "I was so envious of skaters who got cheers from the home crowd when I was in Vancouver and Sochi. I thought how it would be nice if the Olympics take place in Korea. That has come true, and I'm thrilled by it," she said.