Korea's first-ever six-time Olympian Lee Kyou-hyuk has officially ended his 23-year career as a speed skater. Lee burst into tears during his retirement ceremony in Seoul on Monday as he reflected on the bittersweet memories of his medal-less career.
Sports officials, athletes and family members attended the event, including Korea Skating Union chief Kim Jae-youl and Sochi Olympic gold medalists Lee Sang-hwa and Park Seung-hee.
After joining the national team in 1991 at the age of 13, Lee set world records in the 1,000 m in 1997 and 1,500 m in 2001. But he was never lucky enough to win a medal at the Olympics. He has competed in six consecutive Winter Olympics, from the Lillehammer Games in 1994 to the recent Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in February.
Although he was not as fast in Sochi as he was during his prime, the 36-year-old received much praise from his fans as he showed his great effort and endurance by doing his best to finish the race.
Asked if he has any regrets about ending his career without an Olympic medal, he said, "I came to realize [in Sochi] that medals aren't everything. The reason I came this far is probably because I was never able to get one."
Lee plans to spend some time with his family before focusing on helping the next generation of speed skaters train for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
"Based on my experience, I think I can give them a lot of help and advice so they can do better," he said.