Speed Skater Blames Insomnia for 5,000-m Meltdown

Speed skater Lee Seung-hoon checks his record after the mens 5,000-m race at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday. Speed skater Lee Seung-hoon checks his record after the men's 5,000-m race at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday.

Speed Skater Lee Seung-hoon expressed regret over his performance in the men's 5,000 m at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday but said he had never expected to beat gold-medal winner Sven Kramer of the Netherlands.

"I expected Kramer to win the race. But I was confident of getting a medal as the second and third-placed records [in previous groups] were not as fast as I had expected."

Lee, who won silver at the event at the Vancouver Winter Olympics four years ago, ranked a disappointing 12th after clocking a speed of 6:25.61 minutes in the final. Team Korea had been looking to him for its first medal of the Games after he ranked third at the ISU World Cup this season, but on the day glory was not his to be had.

Immediately after the race, a distraught Lee left the venue apologizing to reporters and fans. He spoke to the press after a training session the following day and gave two reasons for his poor performance, saying that he struggled to find his form during final overseas training camps in France and the Netherlands and was struck with insomnia upon arriving in Sochi.

There was also a psychological factor at play as Lee saw Kramer set a new Olympic record of 6:10.76 minutes earlier in the day as the Dutchman raced in Group 10. Kramer's teammates also clocked solid times of around 6:15 and 6:16 minutes in the following two groups.

Lee, who was in Group 13, started the race under considerable pressure to keep pace with his Dutch rivals. After 3,000 m he was already 5 seconds behind Kramer's best time but was unable to close the gap as he failed to put on his characteristic spurt at the finish.

Saying that Dutch athletes are also strong in the 10,000-m race, due to be held to Feb. 18, Lee vowed to do his best and finish the race with a better performance.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 10, 2014 09:42 KST