First ice event held in Pyeongchang ahead of 2018 Olympics

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The first ice sports event to be held at Pyeongchang - host of the 2018 Winter Olympics - started on Friday with the 33rd KSU Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Construction of Gangneung Ice Arena, which will also host figure-skating in February 2018, was finished in December. There will be a total of six new venues in place.

''The completion of the ice venues is a meaningful step for Pyeongchang 2018,'' said Choi Moon-soon, Governer of Gangwon Province, home to Pyeongchang.

''After Pyeongchang 2018, they will be returned to the public and open doors for potential athletes and create new horizons for Gangneung residents.''

The World Cup leg, which sees qualification on Friday with competition on Saturday and Saturday across 10 individual or relay events, doubles as a test event for operational aspects of the arena.

Almost 200 athletes from 31 countries, including three-time gold medal winner Charles Hamelin of Canada, are expected to compete over the weekend with organizers reporting that the 12,000 seater venue is over 90 percent sold-out.

South Korea is a traditional power in speed-skating. Locals are cheering on Choi Min-jeong who hopes to widen her lead in the women's 1,000-meter standings.

The arena will host the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championship in January.

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