Korean, Japanese Rivals Honored for Cross-Border Friendship at Pyeongchang

  • By Yun Dong-been

    April 02, 2019 10:03

    Speed skaters Lee Sang-hwa of Korea and Nao Kodaira of Japan will be honored for their display of sportsmanship and cross-border friendship during last year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

    A foundation to commemorate the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics under the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism said Monday that it will bestow a friendship award upon Lee and Kodaira, who touched people's hearts when they competed for a gold medal in the women's 500-m speed skating at Pyeongchang.

    Nao Kodaira (right) of Japan embraces Lee Sang-hwa after the women's 500-m event at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province on Feb. 18, 2018. /Yonhap

    At that time Lee was aiming for her third consecutive Olympic gold in the event, and Kodaira emerged as her archrival as she had swept the women's 500-m titles at international events in the lead-up to the Olympics, including the World Cup and World Championships. Kodaira did not make a significant impact until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but improved dramatically after moving to the Netherlands.

    And it was Kodaira who took gold at Pyeongchang, dashing Lee's hopes of becoming three-time Olympic champion.

    When Lee broke into tears while circling the rink to acknowledge the fans' cheers after coming in second, Kodaira came up to her and gave her a hug and then the two took a turn around the rink hand in hand. The moment turned out to be one of the highlights of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

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