Olympic speed skating preview: Women's 500m
How to watch
Sunday, Feb. 17, 6:56 a.m. ET
What to watch for
The women's 500m will be one of the most anticipated events for the speed skating loving host nation, home of two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Lee Sang-Hwa. Lee faces an uphill climb to a third straight title, as the heavy favorite will be Japan's Nao Kodaira, the reigning world champion.
Kodaira, who has already won a silver in the 1000m, had a breakout season in 2017, winning the world sprint title in addition to her 500m world title and a world silver medal in the 1000m.
Kodaira will be tough to beat, but Lee has been the next best competitor of late: she won the world silver medal in 2017 and finished second to Kodaira in five World Cup races earlier this season (through December). Lee struggled with a right knee injury last season, which slowed her progress and opened the door for Kodaira to usurp her as the event's top performer.
Arisa Go, has been another top competitor this season. Go trains with Kodaira and the rest of the impressive Japanese women in Obihiro, and says Kodaira's work ethic has rubbed off on her.
A dark horse contender could be Austria's Vanessa Herzog. Herzog is paired with Lee, and the champion could push the Austrian to new heights. Herzog cracked the World Cup podium earlier this season and has come close on several other occasions.
Brittany Bowe might finally get a bit of luck in the 500m. In the 1000m and 1500m, Bowe was bounced out off the podium, after racing in one of the earlier pairs. In the 500m, Bowe will compete in the second half of the event and should have a better idea of the time required to medal.
Will Heather Bergsma be able to salvage her Games? That is the biggest question surrounding the American speed skater heading into the finals. Bergsma has been dissapointing so far in PyeongChang, but will have a chance at redemption in the 500m. Recently she has been stronger in the 1000m and 1500m, but did win a world title in the 500m in 2015.
Erin Jackson is a complete wild card heading into the 500m. Jackson, whose qualification was perhaps the most riveting story of Olympic trials: Jackson had been on ice for only a total of four months when she earned a spot as the first black woman to make the U.S. speed skating team. Jackson is a multi-world champion in roller skating and made rapid progress to qualify for her first Olympic team, but her consistency and ability to contend on the Olympic stage remains to be seen.
2014 Sochi Games medalists
Gold:Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR)
Bronze: Margot Boer (NED)
* Russia's Olga Fatkulina was awarded the silver medal, but it was later stripped due to a doping violation
2017 World Championships medalists
Gold: Nao Kodaira (JPN)
Silver: Lee Sang-Hwa (KOR)
Bronze: Yu Jing (CHN)
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