Lee Sang-hwa burst off the line with a flawless start. She built up speed with each stride on the front straightway — her arms swinging powerfully, her body low to the ice.
By the time Lee came around the final turn, the gold medal was a formality.
‘‘Right now,’’ said silver medalist Olga Fatkulina, ‘‘she is almost Usain Bolt.’’
The South Korean lived up to the hype as the overwhelming favorite in women’s 500-meter speedskating Tuesday, zipping around the big oval with the two fastest runs to win her second straight Olympic gold.
Lee dominated the World Cup circuit this season, winning every event she entered.
The 24-year-old kept up that form at Adler Arena.
Lee led after the opening heat and went even faster the second time, an Olympic-record time of 37.28 seconds to beat the mark of 37.30 set by Catriona Le May Doan at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Lee’s combined time of 1 minute, 14.70 seconds was also an Olympic mark, beating Le May Doan’s record of 1:14.75 at the high-altitude Utah Olympic Oval.
The only real race was for second and third. The Russian crowd roared when Fatkulina took the host country’s second speedskating medal, finishing in 1:15.06.
Margot Boer claimed bronze with a combined time of 1:15.48, giving the Netherlands its eighth speedskating medal in Sochi. It was the first event they've failed to win at Adler, but was still a pleasant surprise for a team that had never been a strong contender in the all-out sprint.
Heather Richardson, who came into the Olympics ranked second in the World Cup standings, was fourth after the opening round and figured to put up a better time in her second race, finishing up on the outside lane. She actually went slower, dropping all the way to eighth.
Any hope of challenging the previous US high of eight medals from the 2002 and 1980 Winter Games falls on Shani Davis, who goes into the men’s 1,000 on Wednesday looking to win his third straight gold in that event. If he falters, there’s little chance.
Women’s freestyle sprint — Even when Marit Bjoergen has a rare off-day, her teammates can still bring Olympic medals home to Norway.
Maiken Caspersen Falla led a Norwegian double to take gold in the women’s cross-country freestyle sprint. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg narrowly beat Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia in a photo finish for the silver, giving Norway its first 1-2 finish in a women’s cross-country event at the Olympics.
Falla’s gold was her first Olympic medal, and Norway’s 100th in the sport.
Fabjan took bronze, while Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen — whose brother died on the eve of the games — was fourth. Bjoergen was knocked out in the semifinals.
American skier Kikkan Randall’s attempt to become the first American woman to win an Olympic cross-country skiing medal fell well short, as she finished fourth of six skiers in a tough quarterfinal heat that featured both Bjoergen and German sprint specialist Denise Herrmann.
Men’s freestyle sprint — Ola Vigen Hattestad won the freestyle sprint after three of his rivals fell in the final.
On a day of spills and falls in the soft snow, the Norwegian went in front early in the final and avoided the crash behind him, and then held off Teodor Peterson of Sweden for the gold medal. Peterson finished 1.2 seconds behind for silver.
In a strange finish, Emil Joensson of Sweden — who had all but given up earlier in the race after running out of energy — ended up with the bronze after Sergey Ustiugov, Marcus Hellner, and Anders Gloeersen were all involved in a crash.
Russia 2, Japan 1 — Alexandra Vafina scored on a breakaway with 8:24 left in the third period to help Russia earn a berth in the quarterfinals.
Anna Prugova stopped 21 shots for the hosts, who improved to 2-0. They will play unbeaten Sweden Thursday to determine their playoff opponents.
Nana Fujimoto made 36 saves for Japan, which fell to 0-2 and was eliminated from medal contention.
Sweden 4, Germany 0 — Emma Nordin scored just one minute into the game and Cecilia Ostberg added a goal and an assist to give Sweden a victory and a likely spot in the playoffs.
Kim Martin Hasson became the first women’s goalie to play in four Olympics. She made 21 saves for Sweden, which improved to 2-0.
Women — Britain scored an Olympic-record 7 points in one end on the way to a 12-3 win over the US, earning the world champions a first victory in the women’s tournament.
British skip Eve Muirhead broke the previous record of 6 points — set by Swedish and Canadian men’s teams — in the fourth end of the game with a routine takeout shot after a series of errors by the Americans.
Switzerland (3-0) tops the standings after a 7-6 win over Denmark in the morning session followed by an 8-6 win over Korea in the evening.
Canada (2-0) is the other unbeaten team, with skip Jennifer Jones producing a flawless display in a 9-3 victory over defending champion Sweden in the morning. Britain is 1-1.
Men — Sweden secured a third straight win by beating Canada, 7-6, intensifying the early-tournament woes of the gold-medal favorites.
Canada has won the last two Olympic titles but now has lost back-to-back games in Sochi and was sloppy in its only win, against tournament outsider Germany Monday.
Norway, the 2010 silver medalist, defeated Russia, 9-8, to move to 2-0 alongside China, which won, 9-4, against the United States in eight ends after the Americans conceded.
The US loss means the American men and women are a combined 0-4.
Women’s 10 kilometer pursuit — After 3 kilometers, Darya Domracheva took the lead and never looked back.
Domracheva started the 10K pursuit 32 seconds behind sprint champion Anastasiya Kuzmina, but she overtook her Slovakian rival after the first shooting and raced ahead.
The Belarusian biathlete could even afford to miss the 20th and final target and still comfortably win the gold medal in 29 minutes, 30.7 seconds.
Tora Berger of Norway was 37.6 seconds behind to take silver and Teja Gregorin of Slovenia claimed bronze. Kuzmina finished sixth.