Fontana and Choi reign supreme in women’s short track
Italy’s Arianna Fontana won a medal of each colour at PyeongChang 2018 to take her overall Winter Games total to eight, more than any other woman has managed in the history of Olympic short track. The Republic of Korea’s teenage skater Choi Min-jeong sent the home fans at the Gangneung Ice Arena wild with two golds. And Suzanne Schulting won the 1,000m to give the Netherlands its first ever Olympic short track title.
Italy’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, Fontana collected her sixth Olympic medal and her first ever gold when she won the short track programme’s curtain raiser, the women’s 500m, on 13 February.
The 27-year-old - who took the bronze at Vancouver 2010 and silver at Sochi 2014 - led the final from start to finish, holding off a late challenge from local hero Choi to win in a time of 42.569 seconds. The home skater finished just 22cm behind the Italian, but was later disqualified for obstruction, meaning Yara van Kerkhof (NED) took the silver and Kim Boutin (CAN) the bronze.
“I’m speechless,” said a breathless Fontana. “When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever.”
Choi bounces back
Four days after her 500m disappointment, the 19-year-old Choi bounced back to claim 1,500m gold and spark scenes of joy at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Choi took the lead in the seven-woman final with two laps remaining and broke clear to complete an emphatic victory.
Another teenager, 17-year-old Li Jinyu of China, took the silver, while Boutin claimed her second bronze of the Games.
“It’s been the biggest dream of mine for four years,” said the world record holder Choi, three times a winner on the World Cup circuit during the 2017/18 season. “I’m so proud. I feel physically burned out but I’m so happy on the inside, so proud of my whole country.
My mother sent me a letter before the Games and I brought it with me to the Olympic Village. I’ve read and reread it before each race and whenever I’ve been feeling a bit down. It’s done me a lot of good.Choi Min-jeong Republic of Korea
Hosts retain their 3,000m relay title
The Republic of Korea quartet of Shim Suk-hee, Choi, Kim Ye-jin and Kim A-Lang were in a class of their own in the 3,000m relay A Final on 20 February, securing their country’s sixth gold in eight attempts since the event first appeared on the Olympic programme at Albertville 1992.
Taking the silver behind the defending champions were Italy, while the Netherlands claimed bronze after setting a new world record to win the B Final.
Skating last for the hosts in a keenly contested four-team final, Choi had the home fans in raptures when she crossed the line ahead of China’s Li. That was not the end of the story, however, as the Chinese and Canada were then disqualified for obstruction, meaning the silver went to Italy (Fontana, Lucia Peretti, Cecilia Maffei and Martina Valcepina), who picked themselves up from a fall to complete the race. That gave Fontana a seventh Olympic medal, a new record for women’s short track.
Taking the bronze were the Netherlands (Ter Mors, Lara Van Ruijven, Schulting and Van Kerkhof), who set a new world record of four minutes, 3.471 seconds in winning the B Final. Ter Mors’ bronze, which came six days after her speed skating gold in the 1,000m, made her the first athlete to win medals in different disciplines at the same Olympic Winter Games.
“These are my first Olympic Games,” said Choi, the only short track skater – male or female – to collect two golds at PyeongChang 2018.
My predecessors had record results in the relay and we did our best to keep that record going. We just wanted to get the best possible result because we were racing on home ice.Choi Min-jeong Republic of Korea
Schulting scores a first for Dutch short track
Schulting picked up where she left off in that 3,000m B Final to win the 1,000m crown and give the Netherlands – better known for its speed skating prowess – a first Olympic short track gold. The Dutch skater moved to the front of the five-skater final with four laps to go and held off the rest of the field to win in a time of one minute, 29.778 seconds ahead of Boutin, who picked up her third medal of PyeongChang 2018.
Fontana came home third to extend her record-breaking Olympic women’s short track medal collection to eight. Meanwhile, Choi bade farewell to her hopes of a golden hat-trick when she and compatriot Shim came together on the final lap and fell. Choi picked herself up to cross the line in fourth, while Shim received a penalty for her part in the fall.
“Dutch short track was at the bottom six years ago and now we are climbing so fast. I want to inspire all those young kids to do short track as well and make short track as big as long track is in the Netherlands,” said Schulting, who switched disciplines in order to compete at PyeongChang 2018.
It’s been really cool to race against the Republic of Korea’s skaters. They are great specialists. It was fantastic to be in the final because the crowd was really involved. I love skating here, with an atmosphere like this. It feels amazing to have taken them on and won.Suzanne Schulting Netherlands