New Zealand men's speed skating team keep Kiwi medal hopes alive after qualifying for Winter Olympics semi-finals




New Zealand speed skaters Shane Dobbin, Peter Michael and Reyon Kay are through to the semi-finals of the Winter Olympics team pursuit.

The trio finished fourth in the qualification round on Sunday, holding off Japan by 0.44 seconds to book a semi-final against pacesetters South Korea.

New Zealand will head into the contest as underdogs after the hosts smoked the field to finish 0.74 seconds ahead of the second-placed qualifiers from the Netherlands.

The Kiwis finished almost two seconds slower than their next opponents but a win will see them into the gold medal race against either the Netherlands or Norway.

Dobbin was confident for Wednesday's showdown after blowing out the cobwebs in PyeongChang.

"That's probably our worst run we've done in a couple of weeks," he said.

"But more than likely it was just the nerves - my first time on the ice with the guys under that type of pressure, those conditions.

"We'll aim to do a better run next time. We're up against Korea which is not ideal because they seem to be a step in front of everyone else at the moment.

"But we've got a few points to work on now."

Dobbin withdrew from the individual 10,000m to concentrate on the team pursuit, which shapes as New Zealand's best chance of ending its 26-year Winter Olympic medal drought with a top-four finish now guaranteed.

The 38-year-old came of out retirement after Sochi 2014 to compete in PyeongChang after his teammates and fellow former in-line skaters showed their potential.

Michael cemented his credentials with fourth place in the 5000m last week and Dobbin said he'll continue to anchor the team.

"We worked out in training we lose about 0.3 seconds every time we make a change, so the least amount of changes we can make, we're potentially gaining that time back," Dobbin said.

"On the flip side, it's very hard for Pete to do five laps at the finish. He's spent a lot of time working on doing those five laps as even as possible.

"We think we've got something that works for us and we've worked hard on it.

"We've got it to about as good as we can get it."

Michael said the team was coping with the pressure of being a New Zealand medal prospect - with his sense of humour intact.

"We obviously have a lot of pressure on us but we put a lot on ourselves," he said.

"It's going to to be a tough run going against Korea but we do hype up for the crowd.

"I'm probably the most immature and just imagine them cheering for me."

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