By Kang Seung-woo
Speed skater Lee Seung-hoon claimed South Korea's first medal of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Sunday
The 21-year-old clocked in at 6 minutes, 16.95 seconds in the men's 5,000 meter to finish second behind gold medalist Sven Kramer of the Netherlands, who set a record with his time of 6:14.60. Russian Ivan Skobrev took the bronze with a time of 6:18.05.
With the silver medal, the Seoul-native became the third South Korean long-track skater ever to stand on the podium at the Winter Olympic Games.
Kim Yoo-man took a silver medal in the men's 1,000 meters in the 1992 event in Albertville, France and Lee Kang-seok captured a bronze in the 500 meter in Turin four years ago.
In addition, Lee became the first Asian to bag a medal in the long-distance event at the Games.
"The result was better than expected. Honestly, I wasn't certain I'd be able to win a medal," Lee said.
"But I realized I was doing better than I expected when I checked my lap time during the race."
Lee converted from short track to long track last summer after failing to earn a spot on the national short track squad in a tryout last April.
Despite his short career, he had high expectations for a medal in the long distance event, where Korea is not as competitive as in short-track.
In Korea, Lee has broken the domestic record in the 5,000 meters three times, lowering the mark by 17.28 seconds to 6:14.67.
In addition, he recently became the first Korean to finish in the top 10 in the distance in the World Cup.
"I had no option but to convert to speed skating (to compete at the Olympics) after my failed tryout,'' he said.
"Korea is competitive in long track speed skating, but it is much better in short-track skating. Given that, I took up the long-track event."