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South Korea, China contend for short track gold

February 12, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The women take over the spotlight as short track speedskating resumes at the Sochi Olympics.

After two days off, the sport resembling roller derby on ice awards medals Thursday in the women’s 500 meters.

Marianne St-Gelais of Canada watched her boyfriend Charles Hamelin win the 1,500 on Monday. The pair shared a celebratory kiss rinkside. Now she has a chance to get on the podium in the pell-mell sprint where the start is key. Skaters who break out in the best position will have the advantage.

Here are five things to look for on the second day of short track at Iceberg Skating Palace:

WOMEN’S 500 FINAL: Park Seung-hi will try to give South Korea a victory in the only short track event it has never won. If she does, the nation would be the first to win all eight Olympic short track events. Her teammates, Kim Alang and Shim Suk-hee, are also competing. St-Gelais and Arianna Fontana of Italy won silver and bronze at Vancouver. Two-time defending champion Wang Meng of China broke her ankle last month and isn’t competing. The lone American to advance out of the heats was Emily Scott.

SPILLS AND CHILLS: The women’s 500 heats on Monday were mistake-prone. Russia’s Tatiana Borodulina was disqualified for two false starts, silencing the fans. American Jessica Smith crashed out of her first individual event, losing it on the second lap of her heat.

MEN’S 5,000 RELAY: Canada is the team to beat as the semifinals get underway. Three of the four skaters who won the gold medal four years ago on home ice in Vancouver are back. The Canadians won last year’s world title in the relay, and those same four skaters will be on the ice, including the Hamelin brothers, Charles and Francois. Canada has won three of the last four Olympic titles in the relay. Led by Viktor Ahn, the Russians will contend for a medal in front of their fans. The U.S. men, who earned a bronze in Vancouver, will challenge for a podium position, too. The final is Feb. 21.

MEN’S 1,000 HEATS: Charles Hamelin will be seeking his second gold medal of these games as the preliminary rounds of the 1,000 begin. The Canadian, who earlier won the 1,500, is the world’s top-ranked skater at this distance. Ahn and American J.R. Celski are also medal threats. None of the Vancouver medalists are competing in this event, including American Apolo Anton Ohno, who has retired. The final is Saturday.

HAMELIN AND AHN: Charles Hamelin and Ahn are two of the most dominant skaters on the men’s side in Sochi. In the 1,000, each of them will be going for a record-tying fourth career gold medal. The winner would equal the four golds earned by women’s skaters Chun Lee-kyung of South Korea and China’s Wang.

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