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Olympic short track concludes with 3 finals

February 20, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Viktor Ahn opened the short track competition by giving Russia its first Olympic medal in the frenetic sport. Now the red-haired skater can make history on the final night of competition by winning the only gold medal that is missing from his collection.

Ahn is the heavy favorite in the 500 meters, the only Olympic race he’s never won. A victory would give Ahn a record fifth short track gold and make him the first skater to win all four different events at the Winter Games.

Eight years ago in Turin, Ahn won gold in the 1,000, 1,500 and 5,000 relay, and bronze in the 500 skating for South Korea. He added gold in the 1,000 in Sochi for his adopted country of Russia after earning bronze in the 1,500 meters. Ahn was forced to miss the 2010 Vancouver Games because of a knee injury. Born in Seoul, he became a Russian citizen in 2011.

If Ahn adds medals in the 500 and 5,000 relay, he would tie American Apolo Anton Ohno for most career medals with eight.

Here are five things to watch for on the fifth and last day of short track at Iceberg Skating Palace:

WOMEN’S 1,000 FINAL: South Korea has three strong skaters trying to make the final: Kim Alang, Park Seung-hi and Shim Suk-hee. Those three were part of the short track power’s gold medal-winning team in the 3,000 relay. Alang is ranked second in the world in the 1,000. Park took bronze in the 500, and Shim won silver in the 1,500. Shim won three of four World Cup events at the distance this season. China’s Li Jianrou, winner of the 500, is another contender.

DUTCH DOUBLE: Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands will be busy on Friday. First, she’ll compete in long track team pursuit at Adler Arena, and then she’ll rush next door to the short track venue for the 1,000 meters. Ter Mors won gold in the long track 1,500, and she’ll try to become the first skater to medal in both disciplines. “I have to be smart about how I use my energy, but it is no problem,” she said.

VIVA FONTANA: Arianna Fontana of Italy skates in the quarterfinals of the women’s 1,000 in pursuit of her first Olympic gold medal. She won silver in the 500, and bronze in both the 1,500 and 3,000 relay in Sochi. Fontana already had two bronze medals from two previous Winter Games.

MEN’S 5,000 RELAY: Russia, China and the U.S. are the medal contenders in the men’s relay final. The field is missing defending champion Canada and 2010 silver medalist South Korea after both heavyweights crashed in the semifinals. Ahn will anchor the Russia team, while J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., will anchor the Americans. “China has four equal guys,” U.S. head coach Guy Thibault said. “They can go fast forever. They just don’t have a finisher. The U.S. and Russia are clearly the two best teams as far as an anchor.”

DESPERATE AMERICANS: The U.S. has yet to win a short track medal in Sochi, and the Americans have four chances to reach the podium Friday night. Celski is in the 500 quarterfinals and will anchor his team in the 5,000 relay final; Emily Scott of Springfield, Mo., and Jessica Smith of Melvindale, Mich., are in the 1,000 quarterfinals. The last time the U.S. failed to medal was 1998 in Nagano. Several crashes have taken out Americans. “It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been performing at our potential, but things happen,” said Eddy Alvarez of Miami, Fla., who crashed three times and was disqualified in another race in Sochi.

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