Speed skating-Parents' faith again rewarded by 'Empress Lee'

The Olympic victories and records keep coming for South Korean speed skater Lee Sang-hwa but her early races against her brother as a child remain the most significant to her.

The 24-year-old Seoul skater, who retained her Olympic 500 metre sprint title on Tuesday, took up skating aged seven with her older brother Sang-jun but their parents could not afford training costs for both.

"We started skating together and I was a little bit better than him so my parents decided to help me instead of him," Lee told reporters at the Adler Arena.

It is an investment that has well and truly paid off.

Sang-jun is now in the company of some of the world's best metre sprinters after the Lego-obsessed Lee, known as 'Empress Lee' at home, left the field trailing again on Tuesday.

Her Sochi success in an Olympic record time of 37.28 seconds came despite a sore knee, offering the competition little hope of reversing the trend before her home Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018.

"Frankly I'm not in as good condition as I was when I broke the world record," she said of the remarkable week last in Salt Lake City last November when she broke the record three times, culminating in the current mark of 36.36 seconds.

"So when I was skating I had a bad feeling, but everyone said I was doing good so I trusted them," said Lee, highlighting the morale-lifting work of her Canadian coach Kevin Crockett.

"He gave me a big boost before the race today. I didn't feel good but he encouraged me continually. He is very good at giving me positive energy."

There had been a lot of negative energy around the Korean skaters in Sochi following a difficult start to competition.

Lee Seung-hoon, silver medallist four years ago, could manage only 12th in the 5,000m, while Mo Tae-bum ended fourth after failing to live up to his favourite's tag in the defence of the men's 500 metres.

Both athletes have further chances for success with Lee Seung-hoon defending his 10,000m title next week and Mo going in the 1,000m on Wednesday.

Lee Sang-hwa was confident her success would ease the tension and spark a gold rush for the Koreans, who were the top speed skating nation at the Vancouver Games.

"It is true that it was rather awkward to speak to them," she said of the conversations with Mo and Lee after their losses.

"They also have other competitions and are able to do well and better so I have many hopes and expectation for them for the remainder of the Games."