5 things to watch as fastest men go for 500 title

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - The title of fastest man on skates will be decided Monday, with Mo Tae-bum of South Korea in a good position to defend his Olympic title in the 500 meters.

In an event where Asian skaters have done extremely well, Mo should watch out for a Japanese challenge. He needs to keep an eye on a pair of Dutch twins, too.

And since eight different sprinters have won World Cup events this season, don’t count out an upset.

Here are five things to watch for in the men’s 500 meters at the Adler Arena:

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MORE MO: Mo turns 25 on Saturday and is counting on an early birthday present. Since winning the 500 meter title in Vancouver, he has added two world sprint titles to his collection and is currently leading the World Cup standings after winning the last race before the games in Berlin.

And since long-distance specialist Lee Seung-hoon disappointed in the 5,000 meters on Saturday, South Korea will be counting on a gold from Mo.

JAPANESE CONTENDERS: Japan has traditionally been at its strongest in the sprint events and is looking for a successor to Hiroyasu Shimizu, who made the host country proud with gold at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. Candidate this year include Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato, both in the top-four of the World Cup standings.

DOUBLE DUTCH: So dominating over just about every other speedskating distance among men, the Dutch have waited a long time for a true contender in the 500. Now they have twins. Michel Mulder has been the best so far, adding a world sprint title last month to a World Cup win in Berlin. His brother Ronald has had to settle for one World Cup win this season.

U.S. AWOL? The United States has an excellent record in the 500, with Casey FitzRandolph having won at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and Joey Cheek extending U.S. domination in Turin four years later.

The fastest U.S. man this year is Tucker Fredricks, who trails in seventh place in the World Cup standings but did win a World Cup race early in the year.

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE: Unlike any other speedskating event, the 500 is raced over two heats with the combined time determining the Olympic champion. The speed of the skaters is so high that by the time they hit the final turn, having an outside lane is a definite advantage. To make racing fair, each skater starts once in the inside lane and once in the outside lane.

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Follow Raf Casert on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

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