Dajing speeds to men’s short track 500m gold
Pre-race favourite Wu Dajing (CHI) kept his nerve after a false start to win gold in a world record time in the men’s short track speed skating 500m final at PyeongChang 2018, held at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday 22 February.
Dajing had dominated in qualifying, posting a new world record of 39.800, and he was on top form again in the final. The 23-year-old set an electrifying pace ahead of Republic of Korea pair Hwang Daeheon and Lim Hyojun, with Canada's Samuel Girard unable to make an impact from the back.
Dajing finished the four and half laps in a new world record time of 39.5.584 to claim gold, with Daeheon taking silver in a time of 39.854, while compatriot Hyojun finished in third place after clocking a time of 39.919.
Dajing won silver in the 500m in Sochi four years ago and he has dominated the distance since then, winning 10 men's 500m races at world championships and in the World Cup.
His flawless display in PyeongChang, in which he led the race from the start and finished 0.27 seconds ahead of Daeheon, and with another world record, saw him become the first Chinese man to win a short track gold medal at a Winter Games.
"I didn't give my competitors a chance," said Dajing. "I just kept my speed from the start. More importantly, I think I believed in myself. I'm very emotional and happy to have won China's first gold in this event.
"I didn't think so much about the world record," he added of the pressure to live up to the speed he had set in qualifying. "I just thought about how to get through each round. This competition was very tough. I kept trying to give myself confidence and the team has also been very supportive and encouraging me."
The crowd inside the arena had hoped to see either Daeheon and Hyojun become the first Korean athlete to win gold in this event since Chae Ji-Hoon won the inaugural title in 1994.
However, by winning a silver medal, Daeheon exceeded his 14th and 17th-placed finishes in the 1,500m and 1,000m events respectively.
"Tomorrow there is another sunrise," reflected Daeheon. "This is just one day in my life and I think this is just one competition in my life. I competed in the 500m and I had this result laid out before me, so of course I'm a bit disappointed with my performance. But I believe that we have won gold in terms of communication and won gold for our teamwork. I will now do my best to become a more diligent athlete who tries harder."
Hyojun also admitted to feeling proud to have added another medal to his 1,500m gold, but that he would rather topped then podium.
"Dajing has been a great athlete in this distance," he admitted. "He's such an amazing athlete. The speed was really fast in the final. I didn't really know that the world record would be broken, so I think it's fortunate that we got the medals at all.
"In 1500m, I had a good start," he said as he reflected on his overall performance at these Winter Games. "I really wanted to win the gold in the relay event, rather than in the individual event. However, we failed to get a medal, so I feel very sorry for my teammates. We will do our best at the next Olympic Games not to repeat this mistake."