Ahn wins 1st Olympic short track gold for Russia
Feb. 15, 2014
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Viktor Ahn threw his arms up in celebration as he crossed the finish line first, giving Russia its first Olympic short track gold medal. Just behind him Vladimir Grigorev was celebrating, too, as Russia finished 1-2 in the men's 1,000 meters on Saturday, igniting a raucous home crowd.
The Seoul-born Ahn won gold medals for South Korea in 2006. His victory Saturday made him the first man to win four short track golds — and the first to win Winter Olympic gold medals for two unrelated countries.
"I spent the whole last eight years for this medal," Ahn said through a translator. "That's why I cried."
Ahn and Grigorev raced to celebrate with their coaches on the sideline as the mostly Russian crowd tooted horns and waved red, white and blue flags. It was Ahn's sixth career Olympic medal, including two in Sochi.
"I was so touched by the loud applause," said Ahn, who equaled women Wang Meng of China and Chun Lee-kyung of South Korea with his fourth short track gold.
Ahn then skated to center ice, got down on all fours and kissed the ice on the letter C in the logo of Sochi 2014. He got up and hugged Grigorev before embracing Sin Da-woon of South Korea, who had been disqualified.
"We don't compete with each other on a personal level," Ahn said of his rivalry with the South Koreans. "I just wanted to congratulate them for their performance."
At 31 years and 191 days, Grigorev became the oldest man to win a short track medal. He briefly led with four laps to go before Ahn passed him for good on the next-to-last lap.
"It was our strategy for me to block out the skaters, to hold them back and for us to go fast so it would be impossible for the other athletes to chase us," said Grigorev, who was born in Ukraine.
Ahn delivered his adopted country's first Olympic short track medal with a bronze in the 1,500. The 28-year-old skater previously competed for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo, winning three golds and a bronze at his first two Olympics in 2002 and 2006. A career-threatening knee injury in 2008 forced him to miss the Vancouver Games. Ahn became a Russian citizen in 2011, saying South Korea didn't provide him the support he needed.
"I proved my decision was not wrong. That's why today really is very, very meaningful to me," he said. "I wanted to choose an environment that allows me to do the sport I really love. What happened in the past is not important; I forgot it."
Ahn explained that he doesn't want stories focused on the negative reasons he left because it wouldn't be good for the current crop of South Korean skaters. "I already said I feel sorry for my former athletes," he said.
Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands took the bronze, earning the first short track Olympic medal for the Dutch, who are better known as the world's dominant long track speedskating team. Knegt got into the final after Lee Han-bin of South Korea was disqualified in the semifinals.
"I can't find any words," said Knegt, who was disqualified from the European championships in January after making an obscene gesture. "I still can't believe it."
The Russian men led most of the way in the 1,000, with Ahn and Grigorev working together to try to ensure both got on the podium. There were no crashes in the six-man final.
"Sometimes such strategy doesn't work, so we have to be very careful," Ahn said. "We played very well and it was a great race."
The Russian men led most of the way in the 1,000, with Ahn and Grigorev working together to try to ensure both got on the podium. There were no crashes in the six-man final, unlike the previous round, when Americans J.R. Celski and Eddy Alvarez were eliminated in separate crashes.
In the women's 1,500 final, Zhou Yang of China won the gold in a successful defense of the Olympic title she claimed four years ago.
Zhou said she had privately considered retiring after Vancouver, but never discussed it with her coaches.
"But I felt I shouldn't give up. I needed to follow this through," she said through a translator. "The confidence I had was from all my friends, all my supporters within my team. My coach who has never given up on me."
Shim Suk-lee of South Korea took the silver and Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze, to go with the silver she won in the 500.
Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands, who is competing in short and long track, finished fourth.
Emily Scott of Springfield, Mo., was fifth after advancing to the final when South Korea's Cho Ha-ri was disqualified. The referees ruled Cho shoved Scott as she tried an outside pass in the turn.