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Two small pieces of sporting history were made at the Hamar Olympic Hall Viking Ship: Speed skaters contested for the first time at any Olympic level a mixed NOC team sprint, and Mongolia won its debut medal at a Winter Games.
In the all-new event, 13 teams of two men and two ladies from mixed NOCs were grouped together, with each race run over 1.6km. It was won, in one minute 57.85 seconds, by ‘mixed team six’, consisting of Sumiya Buyantogtokh of Mongolia, Italy’s Noemi Bonazza, Shen Hanyang of China and the men’s 500m bronze medallist from Republic of Korea, Chung Jae Woong.
By contributing to her team’s gold-medal performance, Buyantogtokh became the first Mongolian athlete to win a medal at any Olympic Winter Games. "Before the race, I was afraid. Now I can't believe I won the gold," she said. “I was very stressed. It was a lot of pressure, but I’m very proud.
“It was wonderful working with other countries and talking with them.”
Mixed Team Six (from left): China's Shen Hanyang, Chung Jae Woong of Republic of Korea, record-breaking Mongolian Sumiya Buyantogtokh and Noemi Bonazza of Italy. Photo: YIS / IOC Jon Buckle
When he realised that team six had won gold, a delighted Shen said: “I’m not sure what I am feeling, but it is very good. [The athletes from different countries] cooperated and worked together very well.”
Italy’s Bonazza, who had already won bronze in the ladies’ 1500m, was excited with the team’s performance after having trained together only twice. “We are all very happy. I am for sure very happy. We skated very well together, I think our team was a very good team.
“In this sport, and sport in general, it doesn’t matter if you are Italian or Chinese or whatever, because if you work together with people who have your same passion it’s a good thing.”
The Italian said that the participating in the mixed NOC team sprint “was very nice, because I got in touch with people from Asia and other states. At first it was a bit difficult with the language. It is strange, but also nice, because we did a race all together and all the team won the gold, not just one person.”
YIS / IOC Jon Buckle
USA’s Austin Kleba, who had missed the podium in the men’s 500m, took silver in 1:58.80 alongside Karolina Gasecka of Poland, the Netherlands’ Elisa Dul and Anvar Mukhamadeyev of Kazakhstan.
“This format is very nice,” he said. “It's different and it brings everyone together. Our coach was Czech and didn't speak good English, but we were able to communicate with him.
“It was interesting to work with athletes from other countries. They have different warm-up strategies and they do a lot of different things on the ice."
Dul, his teammate in ‘mixed team nine’ agreed. “Working with athletes from other countries was really nice,” she said. “You get to know each other in a new way and we learned from one another,” she said.
Norway’s Allan Dahl Johansson, who won bronze in 1:58.87 alongside Mihaela Hogas of Romania, Italy’s Chiara Cristelli and Ole Jeske of Germany, said the event “was different, but fun. They should definitely keep doing it.”
Written by YIS / IOC Emma Lupano with IOC Young Reporter Emily Bayci
Emma Lupano is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Milan-based Emma has worked at the last five Olympic Games and also covered the Innsbruck 2012 and Nanjing 2014 YOGs. A China specialist, she has worked as a freelance journalist from Beijing for four years.