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Everything was going according to plan when Petra Jaszapati of Hungary leaned into a turn in the women’s 500m short track speed-skating A final. She was a nanosecond ahead of the three people chasing her as the women began the final sprint to the finish line.
But in the blink of an eye, Jaszapati fell and the disappointment of seeing her dream of a Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games title disappear showed in her face.
Everyone at the Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall had thought they had just witnessed Koreans Kim Jiyoo and Lee Suyoun finish first and second respectively, to add to their short track medal haul. Kim won gold in 1000m on Sunday (14 February), while Lee took the silver.
But when final results for the blazing-fast race were displayed on the scoreboard, the Koreans were not headed to the podium. They were penalized for impeding an opponent and disqualified.
Zang Yize of China was awarded the gold medal, while Jaszapati took the silver despite the fact she never completed the race. Bulgaria’s Katrin Manoilova, who won the B final, took the bronze.
“I was pretty disappointed because I was in first place,’’ Jaszapati said after the race. ”But I could feel the Korean girl touch me. I could feel the contact. I love the sport because it is never boring. There is always contact out there and you have no idea who is going to win.”
“When I go home I will celebrate. My dad called me when I was changing my clothes and my mom was crying. I just want to get back and celebrate with them.”
Manoilova was in the stands watching the race when another YOG athlete tapped her on the shoulder to say her medal chances had just improved.
Then the unexpected happened. “She said ‘look at the [results] board, because I think you have just won a medal’,’’ said Manoilova, before biting her medal to make sure it was real. “I never expected this. When I saw what happened, I turned to my coach and said ‘wow’.”
Short track speed skating is lightning fast and the difference between standing on the podium and watching from the sidelines is razor thin. But the rulebook is clear when it comes to what is acceptable and what isn’t during races.
Lee and Kim came into the 500m final favoured to win and they stayed true to form; they stayed with the pack and then made a final push.
This time, however, they made an error that cost them another medal or two.
The men’s 500m A final lacked drama compared to the women’s final.
The Republic of Korea’s Hwang Daeheon, the gold medalist over 1000m, moved into the lead in the third lap and crossed the line first but was penalised.
His compatriot Hong Kyunghwan won the race, while Japan’s Kazuki Yoshinaga won silver and China’s Ma Wei claimed the bronze.
“I didn't expect the gold, but the incident of the last corner [which led to Hwang being disqualified] brought me the medal,’’ said Hong.
“It seems like you never know the result until the very last moment of the race. Hwang and Ma clashed in front of me. I was waiting for my moment, as my coach guided me, and trying not to be in rush.”
Written by YIS / IOC ALAN ADAMS
Alan Adams is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Based in Toronto, Canada, he has covered sports since the mid-1980s including covering five Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Jon Buckle