SKorea crashes in relay, finishes with 6 short-track medals
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — There were crashes, penalties, shattered blades and surprises.
It all added up to a historic night of short-track racing Thursday, with South Korea winning a leading six medals in the nation’s favorite Winter Olympic sport but no gold on the last night of competition on home ice.
The Koreans crashed with 23 laps to go in the men’s 5,000-meter relay final, and the same fate befell gold-medal favorites Choi Min-jeong and Shim Suk-hee in the women’s 1,000 final.
Wu Dajing of China dominated the men’s 500, setting a world record in becoming the first man from his country to win short-track gold. South Koreans Hwang Dae-heon and Lim Hyo-jun stayed on their skates to claim silver and bronze. Lim earlier won the 1,500, making him the only man to win multiple individual short-track medals at the games.
In the women’s 1,000, Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands pulled off an upset, giving the country better known for its long-track success a fourth medal in short track.
“It was super unexpected,” said Schulting, who crossed the line with her mouth wide open in amazement. “Just silver or bronze, I still would have been happy with it. But now it’s gold. That’s crazy.”
Kim Boutin of Canada took silver for her third medal of the games.
Arianna Fontana earned bronze, giving the Italian a complete set of hardware to go with gold in the 500 and silver in the 3,000 relay. She joined American Apolo Anton Ohno and Viktor Ahn of Russia as the most decorated short-track Olympians with eight career medals in the rough-and-tumble sport.
“I didn’t think I was going to be here at these Olympics because after Sochi I thought I was going to retire,” Fontana said. “I’m really happy that I didn’t.”
Ahn was excluded from competing in his native South Korea after the International Olympic Committee refused to grant him an invitation amid its vetting of Russia’s athletes for possible doping links. Ahn expressed outrage that he wasn’t given a “concrete reason” for his exclusion.
Wu skated a world-record time of 39.584 seconds in the 500 that a Chinese man had never won at an Olympics.
Hungary had an historic night, too.
The Eastern European country won its first Winter Olympic gold medal — and first of any kind in short track — in the men’s relay, taking the lead on the last lap of the 45-lap race in which 16 skaters tore around the rink. The team of brothers Liu Shaoang and Liu Shaolin Sandor, along with Viktor Knoch and Csaba Burjan, set an Olympic record of 6 minutes, 31.971 seconds.
The Hungarians had previously earned six medals — all in figure skating and none since 1980 — at the Winter Games.
“It was a lot of pressure from the whole country. Everybody felt this weight on their shoulders,” Knoch said. “This was our last chance. It’s unbelievable that we got a medal, and it’s gold.”
Led by Wu, China took silver. Canada earned bronze with a team that included Samuel Girard and veteran Charles Hamelin skating in his final Olympics. Girard, the 1,000 champion, broke his blade in the 500 semifinals.
The South Koreans were challenging for the lead with China when Lim crashed, taking down the nation’s hopes with him and dulling the raucous atmosphere at Gangneung Ice Arena.
China and Canada traded the lead until there were four laps to go. Hungary moved up to second behind Canada with three to go and then Liu Shaolin Sandor threaded his way to the lead and a historic victory.
The U.S. team of J.R. Celski, John-Henry Krueger, Thomas Hong and Aaron Tran won the B relay final. The Americans had earlier been eliminated in the heats of the 500 and 1,000.
Kruger’s silver in the 1,500 was the only American short-track medal, equaling the showing from four years ago in Sochi.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org