Speed skater Mo Tae-bum shocks himself with birthday gold

Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:32am EST
 
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By Larry Fine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Mo Tae-bum received a surprise birthday present from Dutch fans before getting the gold medal for his shock victory in the men's 500 meters speedskating on Monday.

The triumph gave Mo the distinction of becoming the first Korean to win a Winter Games gold in an event other than short-track speed skating, in which they have claimed 18 titles.

"Things that I can't really believe are happening," the unheralded 21-year-old told reporters through an interpreter. "To me it was very surprising.

"I absolutely did not expect this. I maybe dreamed of it and imagined it, but I never expected this would actually happen."

Mo, without a podium finish in any major 500m race, upstaged compatriots Lee Kang-seok and Lee Kyou-hyuk, ranked one and two in the world, to win ahead of Japan's Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato.

The stunning victory was greeted by a warm gesture from speed-skate loving Dutch fans who threw a gaudy helmet on to the ice.

"A spectator from the Netherlands gave me that helmet, threw it to the ice rink after I'd won so I just put it on my head to celebrate," Mo said.

Since the profile page in the Olympic system was virtually blank for Mo, he was asked to describe himself.   Continued...

 
<p>Mo Tae-bum of South Korea celebrates his victory during the flower ceremony following the men's 500 metres speed skating race at the Richmond Olympic Oval during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 15, 2010. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen</p>