Fire on ice – Unstoppable An strikes double gold to rewrite the short-track record books
In a night of high drama at the Iceberg Skating Palace, short track speed skater Victor An won two Olympic golds within the space of an hour, adding the 500m individual and 5,000m relay titles to the 1,000m he won in the first week at Sochi 2014. He now has six Olympic golds in total.
The Russian skater’s first medal of the night came in the men’s individual 500m, in which he had to skate his way from the back to secure victory.
Minutes later he hooked up with the rest of the Russian quartet for the 5,000m relay, and duly anchored them to a new Olympic record time, which was just good enough to edge out the Americans.
“This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi,” said an overjoyed An as he reacted to his latest triumphs.
“Before the competitions started, I just wanted to concentrate on doing my best and show what I could be on the Olympic stage,” added the 28-year-old.
He certainly did that. Over the past two weeks the Russian has set the ice on fire on way to his three golds in Sochi with a series of high-octane performances that have combined dazzling speed, razor-sharp tactics, and no shortage of courage.
In the 500m, An showcased his brilliance to the full, somehow managing to liberate himself from last position, where he had been stuck for much of the final.
Then, with two laps remaining, he calmly moved into second place, before sweeping past China's Wu Dajing at the start of the final lap to cross the line first in 41.312 seconds.
Wu took silver in 41.516 seconds, while surprise finalist Charles Cournoyer of Canada won bronze in 41.617 seconds.
Just minutes later, An lined up alongside his Russian team-mates Semen Elistratov, Vladimir Grigorev and Ruslan Zakharov for the men’s 5,000m relay final to take on a strong field that included USA, China and the Netherlands.
The Russians bossed the race, clocking an aggregate time of 6 minutes 42.100 seconds to finish just fractions ahead of the USA quartet (Eddy Alvarez, J.R. Celski, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone) on 6 minutes 42.371 seconds.
China finished over six seconds off the pace for the bronze. Underlining the strength of Russia’s performance, the Dutch team could only finish fourth, over seven seconds behind the winners.
An’s gold in the relay meant that he is now also the first short-track skater in history to complete a “full-house” of medals, with golds in all four Olympic distances: 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m (which he won at Turin 2006), and the 5,000m relay.
In addition to his six golds, he also boasts two bronze medals (1,500m at Sochi 2014 and 500m at Turin 2006). His overall medal haul of eight is also a joint Olympic record, matched on by US skater Apolo Anton Ohno.
“I'm happy to have tied the record for medals in short track,” An concluded.
“I’m just very happy we were able to win a medal as a team. I wanted one thing tonight, which was for all of us to be smiling together.”