SEOUL (Reuters) - With the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics less than a year away, athletes at the World Speed Skating Championships in South Korea have been impressed by the Gangneung venue which will host the event next year, said organizing chief Lee Hee-beom.
The Games will be held in South Korea from Feb. 9-25, 2018 with Pyeongchang staging the mountain events, while the coastal city of Gangneung will be used for figure skating, curling, ice hockey, speed and short track skating events.
A powerhouse Dutch team, including Olympic long track champions Sven Kramer and Ireen Wust, have been in the ascendancy in Gangneung during the Olympic test event, posting quick times despite the venue being close to sea level.
Rinks at high altitudes are believed to be better-suited for fast times as there is less oxygen frozen into the ice, making it denser, but a delighted Lee said athletes had nothing but praise for the venue.
“The speed skating championships this week have been very popular with our spectators and we have heard wonderful comments from the athletes competing too,” he told the 2018 Winter Games website.
“Particularly on the quality of the ice, so that is a great testament to our venue team who have been working hard to get everything ready.
“The ice has been in such good condition we have all enjoyed watching many individual records being broken and I hope we see more of the same in a year’s time.”
Four-time Olympic champion Wust, who won the women’s 3,000 meters event in Gangneung earlier in the week, praised the work done by the venue staff.
“Ice meister did a good job and I could skate really fast,” she added. “The Village is compact and really small. Gangneung is a really nice city and I look forward to coming back next year.”
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O'Brien