South Korea wins penalty-filled 3,000 relay in short track

Pyeongchang Olympics Short Track Speed Skating Women_242685

The Netherlands team celebrate after winning their women’s 3000 meters short track speedskating relay B final in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Kim Alang rested her helmeted head on the pads alongside the rink and cried. Then she raised her head and joy replaced tears.

Alang and her South Korea team defended their Olympic short-track 3,000-meter relay title on Tuesday, overtaking China with two laps to go in the penalty-filled final.

The Chinese cried, too. For the second straight Olympics, they crossed the finish line second but got disqualified for impeding. The same thing happened in 2006.

As veteran observers of the chaotic sport say, ”That’s short track.”

Indeed, and the drama wasn’t over yet. It took several minutes for the referees to sort out the confusion.

China’s DQ allowed Italy, which finished third, to move up to silver.

Canada was disqualified, too, moving the Netherlands onto the podium for bronze, and the Dutch weren’t even on the ice at the time.

They had won the B final in a world-record time of 4 minutes, 3.471 seconds, bettering South Korea’s mark of 4:04.222 set in November 2016 at Salt Lake City, Utah. It was the first time a relay medal was won by a team in the B final.

The South Korean team of Shim Suk-hee, Choi Min-jeong, Kim Ye-jin and Kim Alang rallied from third spot late in the 27-lap race to win the nation’s sixth gold in the relay. Four years ago in Sochi, Shim and Kim Alang along with their teammates won when they passed China on the last lap to take the lead.

This time they were at home, and the mostly South Korean fans inside Gangneung Ice Arena cheered and waved flags in celebration.

”It is a glorious performance in the stadium. It is our home ground, so much more meaningful,” Choi said. ”We got so cheered up by the crowd.”

Choi earned her second gold at the Pyeongchang Games, having earlier won the 1,500 final.

The South Koreans entered the final ranked first in the world and China was ranked No. 2.

The Canadians, with their arms on each other’s shoulders, watched the overhead video board intently after the race. Their jaws dropped and they initially celebrated before realizing they weren’t the ones to benefit from China’s penalty.

”I thought we had it,” skater Marianne St-Gelais said.

Arianna Fontana of Italy added the relay silver to her earlier gold in the 500. She skated with Lucia Peretti, Cecilia Maffei and Martina Valcepina. Fontana has a record seven career Olympic medals in women’s short track, bettering the old mark of six by China’s Wang Meng.

The Dutch team of Suzanna Schulting, Yara van Kerkhof, Lara van Ruijven and Jorien ter Mors watched the chaos unfold from the sidelines, not expecting they would soon be celebrating a medal. Three of them jumped up and down on the pads surrounding the rink.

Ter Mors became the first woman in Olympic history to win a medal in two different sports at a single Winter Games. She also won the 1,000 meters in long-track speedskating.

There was plenty of tumult in the relay’s final laps.

China led most of the race until Canada took the lead with six laps to go. China snatched it right back on the next lap when the trailing Italian skater fell.

”We’re all going to go back and see the race because we want to understand for real what happened,” Fontana said.

The South Korean and Canadian skaters fell with four laps remaining and China still in the lead. The South Koreans went back in front and Choi battled Fan Kexin to the finish.

”We had to calm down and trust each other and that’s what made the gold medal,” Shim said.

A distraught Fan had to be consoled by teammates Qu Chunyu, Li Jinyu and Zhou Yang on the sidelines.

”I think there was no problem with what we did,” Zhou said. ”We’re blessed to have the next Olympics in Beijing. The Beijing Olympics will definitely be fair, most definitely.”

In the men’s 500 heats, Wu Dajing of China won his heat in an Olympic-record 40.264 seconds.

Lim Hyo-jun, the 1,500 champion, moved on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. Canadian Samuel Girard, the 1,000-meter winner, and 1,000-meter bronze medalist Seo Yira of South Korea also safely advanced.

Two big names – 2010 Olympic champion Charles Hamelin of Canada and 1,500-meter silver medalist Sjinkie Knegt of Hungary – were both penalized for impeding.

Americans John-Henry Krueger, Aaron Tran and Thomas Hong were eliminated. Krueger earned silver in the 1,000, which so far is the only speedskating medal won by the U.S.

The only North Korean skater in the event, Jong Kwang Bom, fell in the first turn. Referees called for a re-start and Jong fell again coming out of the first turn while fighting for second place. He was later penalized.

In the women’s 1,000 heats, Choi, Fontana, Li and Kim Boutin of Canada were among those advancing, along with Shim, van Kerkhof, St-Gelais and Kim Alang.

Elise Christie of Britain returned to competition after injuring her right ankle in a dramatic crash last weekend. But she went down going into the first turn and slid across the ice while grabbing at her ankle.

The referees allowed a re-start and Christie came off the line in last place. She nearly fell in a turn, but briefly rallied only to receive a yellow card after committing two penalties. She was carried to the locker room.

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