Short track: Records come crashing as An & Co shine at the Iceberg
The Iceberg Skating Palace provided the setting for a scintillating short track programme, in which records came tumbling, as Victor An marked his return to the Olympic stage after an eight year gap in sensational fashion, winning three gold medals.
10 February 2014: Hamelin wins 1,500m to complete golden hat-trick
Charles Hamelin (CAN) claimed his third Olympic gold medal as he won the men's 1,500m short track title. The 29-year-old skater clocked 2:14.985 to snatch the gold ahead of 17-year-old Han Tianyu (CHN), who took silver in 2:15.055. Victor An, 28, gave Russia its first ever Olympic short track medal, taking the bronze in 2:15.062.
Hamelin, who won gold in the 500m and the 5,000m relay at Vancouver 2010, arrived in Sochi on top of the World Cup rankings in the 1,000m and 1,500m. He caught the eye wearing a new aerodynamic skinsuit specially designed for the Canadian short-track team.
13 February 2014: Li races to miracle gold in the women’s 500m
Li Jianrou maintained China’s tradition of success over 500m on the short track, emerging from a strong field to take gold at the Iceberg. With two-time defending champion Wang Meng not competing at Sochi 2014, the pre-Games favourite’s mantle rested with her compatriot Fan Kexin.
However, it was the 27-year-old Li who kept the title in Chinese hands for a fourth consecutive Games, clocking 45.263 seconds. That placed her nearly six seconds ahead of Italy's Arianna Fontana, who improved on her bronze from Vancouver 2010, to take silver in 51.250.
Park Seung-Hi of South Korea took bronze in 54.207. It was the third Olympic bronze for the 21-year old, who also finished third in the 1,000m and 1,500m in Vancouver. “I believe it's a miracle,” said the five-time world champion, who is competing at her first Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. “I always believe in myself. I feel lucky to get this gold medal.”
Three of the other finalists were involved in a crash on the first lap of 4.5-lap final. The referees ruled that the pile-up had been caused by Great Britain's Elise Christie, who was disqualified.
Neither Canada's Marianne St.Gelais, the Vancouver silver medallist, nor pre-race favourite Fan Kexin, a two-time world champion over 500m, managed to qualify for the A final. The B final was won by China's Liu Qiuhong, ensuring her fourth place overall.
15 February 2014: Worthy Victor An takes 1,000m title and fourth Olympic gold
Victor An (RUS) won his fourth Olympic gold medal as he stormed to victory in the men's 1,000m. The 28-year-old produced a faultless display to cross the line in 1 minute 25.325 seconds. His fellow Russian Vladimir Grigorev won silver, with Sjinkie Knegt (NED) finishing third for the bronze.
His victory marked a triumphant return to the Olympic stage following an eight-year absence. At Turin 2006, representing Republic of Korea, he had dominated the men’s short-track events, winning individual gold over 1,000m and 1,500m, before helping the Korean quartet take the 5,000m relay title, as well as an individual bronze in the 500m.
Having missed out on Vancouver 2010 through injury, An celebrated his Olympic return with a bronze in the 1,500m, before delivering Russia’s first ever short-track gold in the 1,000m.
Charles Hamelin (CAN), who had won the 1,500m, went out in the quarter-finals, while 2013 world champion Sin Da-Woon (KOR) was disqualified in the final.
15 February 2014: Zhou peaks in time to retain 1,500m crown title
Zhou Yang (CHN), who arrived at Sochi 2014 third in the World Cup rankings, rediscovered her best form when it mattered most to complete a defence of her 1,500m title. The 22-year-old posted a time of 2 minutes 19.140 seconds to edge 17-year-old Shim Suk-Hee (KOR), who also finished second at the world championships and took gold at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games. The Korean clocked in 2:19.239, while Italy's Arianna Fontana claimed bronze in 2:19.416
“I was nervous at the beginning, but after I finished I felt so thrilled,” said Zhou, who skilfully avoided a collision that wiped out three of her rivals before breaking for gold at the ideal moment.
Approaching the final lap, Shim Suk-Hee was cruising in front when Zhou darted inside and snatched the lead. Once in front, she never relented, thrusting her arms in the air after surging clear of her rivals to cross the line.
“I've been through a lot during the past four years,” said the two-time champion. “I didn't expect I could come back to the Olympic Games. I just wanted to do my best during training and competition.”
18 February 2014: Golden Koreans reign supreme in women’s 3,000m relay
The Republic of Korea regained the Olympic women's short track 3,000m relay title, winning gold in the event for the fifth time in six editions of the Winter Games and helping to expunge memories of their disqualification four years earlier Vancouver.
The defending champions China were themselves disqualified for impeding on the final lap, which meant that Canada and Italy were promoted to silver and bronze respectively.
The Korean team of Cho Ha-Ri, Kim Alang, Park Seung-Hi and Shim finished in 4 minutes 9.498 seconds, with Canada crossing the line in 4:10.641. “I felt really good going into the last lap,” said Shim. “I felt fast, and I thought I could pass Li. And it was such a thrill when I did.”
In an exciting race, that swung first one way and then the other, the lead changed hands between the Korean and Chinese teams no less than five times in the last eight laps.
Shim Suk-Lee, a star of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 2012, passed China’s Li Jianrou heading into the final turn to push the Koreans over the line.
Canada’s silver was their seventh successive medal in the 3,000m relay, and capped a particularly impressive few hours for Valerie Maltais, who had earlier set a new Olympic record in the 1,000m heats.
“Before the relay I was so ready, I was pumped up for the race,” said Maltais. “It’s so good for our team to get a medal, she added. “We've spent all season on the edge, and now we've won a medal.”
21 Febuary 2014: Park doubles Sochi gold tally with women’s 1,000m title
Park Seung-Hi (KOR) won gold in the women's 1,000m short track final to take her Sochi 2014 haul to three, adding to her bronze in the 500m and team gold in the 3,000m relay.
The 21-year-old crossed the line in 1 minute 30.761 seconds to edge out China's Fan Kexin (1:30.811), who took silver, while another Korean Shim Suk-Hee won bronze (1:31.027).
Park came from behind to overtake early frontrunner Jessica Smith (USA) before taking charge for the rest of the race. The win took her to five Olympic medals in total, a tally bettered only by Yang Yang (CHN) in women’s short-track.
For Shim, who won gold in the 500m at the 2012 YOG in Innsbruck, the bronze completed a successful senior Olympic debut, leaving Sochi with a medal of each colour.
Park, who trains with the 17-year-old, was delighted to be sharing the podium with the teenager. “Fortunately, we were both able to do really well,” she said. “We’ve been practising the whole season together and it paid off.”
21 February 2014: Unstoppable An takes double gold and place in history
In a night of high drama, Victor An won two Olympic golds within the space of an hour, as he added the 500m individual and 5,000m relay titles to the 1,000m title he won in the first week. That took him to six Olympic golds in total, more than any other short-track skater in history.
“This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi,” said an overjoyed An. “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.
In the 500m, An showcased his brilliance, 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 Wu Dajing (CHN) to cross the line first in 41.312 seconds.
Wu took silver in 41.516 seconds, while surprise finalist Charle Cournoyer (CAN) won bronze in 41.617 seconds.
Later that evening, An lined up alongside his Russian team-mates Semen Elistratov, Vladimir Grigorev and Ruslan Zakharov for the men’s 5,000m relay final, against a strong field that included USA, China and the Netherlands.
The Russians clocked an aggregate time of 6 minutes 42.100 seconds to finish just fractions ahead of the US quartet (Eddy Alvarez, JR Celski, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone) on 6 minutes 42.371 seconds. China finished over six seconds off the pace for the bronze.
“I’m just very happy we were able to win a medal as a team,” said An. “I wanted one thing tonight, which was for all of us to be smiling together.” His gold in the relay meant he also became 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.
His overall medal haul of eight is also a joint Olympic record, matched only by US skater Apolo Anton Ohno.