Wu Dajing speeds around the Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday. © China Xinhua SportsOlympic Games News
Date : 22 Feb 2018
Gangneung, Korea, February 22, 2018: China claimed its first gold medal of PyeongChang 2018 when Wu Dajing broke his own world record in winning the men’s 500m short track speed skating title at Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday. Wu clocked 39.584 seconds to break his own mark of 39.800 set earlier in the evening and finally give the Chinese their first gold medal of the Games with just three days to go to the closing ceremony on Sunday.
As the Chinese supporters in the seats waved a sea of red flags, Wu skated into the arms of his coach, Li Yan, leaning over the safety wall to begin the celebrations. China had won five silver and two bronze medals up until this point of the Winter Olympics.
There is no doubt the Chinese have felt hard done by throughout the short track competition with a string of disqualifications, but Wu made up for this with his explosive starts to take the lead at the first corner, keep out of trouble and skate smoothly all the way to gold. He even kept his nerve – and resolve - after a false start on the inside lane of the final.
This was the 23-year-old Wu’s first Olympic gold after he won a silver (500m) and bronze (relay) at Sochi 2014. Korea’s Hwang Dae-heon took silver and Lim Hyo-jun bronze. When Wu stepped on the top of the podium at the Venue Ceremony, he pointed proudly to the China flag on his jacket before acknowledging the cheers of the Chinese supporters scattered around the arena in red clusters.
“It was a very exciting feeling to win the first gold medal for China,” said Wu. “When I reached the final I had the confidence I could win the race.” When asked if he had extra motivation considering the hardships and penalties suffered by the Chinese short track team, Wu replied: “Many things can happen in short track and there is no point to be angry.
I kept thinking positive and thinking that I could win the gold medal if I produced my best. “My team-mates, the relay teams and the women’s team members have all tried their best here and performed well.” Wu knows that China will have to increase its competitiveness in all sports when the next Winter Olympics are held in Beijing in 2022.
“I want to be there – and I want China to win more medals,” he said. “I think we could have had better results here without all the penalties.”
*The Koreans were hoping for a better result in the second final of the night, the ladies’ 1,000 metres, but Shim Suk-hee and Choi Min-jeong both slid out late in the race. Shim received a penalty for impeding while Choi had to settle for fourth place. The Netherlands’ Suzanne Schulting won gold, Canada’s Kim Boutin silver and Italy’s Arianna Fontana bronze.
*The third final of the night was the men’s 5,000m relay, 45 laps of the track. There was disappointment for the home supporters again when Korea dropped out of medal contention due to a slip before a change-over. Hungary went on to win gold in an Olympic record time of 6:31.971, followed by China with silver and Canada with bronze.
China’s four skaters were Wu, Han Tianyu, Xu Hongzhi and Chen Dequan – giving Wu his second medal of the night and China their sixth silver of the games. They were joined on the podium by a fifth member of the team, Ren Ziwei.
The evening began with the quarter-finals of the men’s 500m, with no fewer than 10 Asian skaters among the 19 competitors. This included the full quota of three each from China, Kazakhstan and Korea, led by the 1,500m gold medal-winner on the first night of PyeongChang 2018, Lim Hyo-jun. The first two skaters from each of the quarter-finals qualified for the semi-finals.
China’s Ren Ziwei won the first heat in a new Olympic record time of 40.032 seconds, beating the mark of 40.264 set by his team-mate, Wu Dajing, two days earlier. Wu went one better in the next race, winning in a new world record of 39.800, eclipsing the 39.937 held by John Celski (USA) since 2012. Korea’s Hwang Dae-heon made a sensational recovery to grab second place behind Wu.
Japan’s Ryosuke Sakazume qualified from the third quarter-final and Korea’s Lim led from post to post in the fourth race and was joined in the semi-finals by Kazakhstan’s Abzal Azhgaliyev, who was advanced on a penalty.
In the semi-finals, Wu and Canada’s Samuel Girard qualified for the final and were joined from the all-Asia second semi-final by the Korean duo of Hwang and Lim after China’s Ren had appeared to be in command, only to miss out to the flying, fighting Koreans.
Three members of Korea’s 3,000m relay-winning team were involved in the quarter-finals: Kim A-lang, Choi Min-jeong and Shim Suk-hee. Choi was chasing her third gold medal here, after winning the 1,500m individual and relay. The first two skaters from each quarter-final qualified for the semi-finals.
Kim qualified in second place from the first quarter-final and Choi was a thrilling winner of the third race, producing her trademark acceleration around the outside to surge from fourth to first ahead of China’s Qu Chunyu in second place.
The exhilarating racing continued in the last quarter-final when Shim showed incredible skating skills to win the race and join Kim and Choi in the semi-finals. In the first semi-final, Kim was eliminated in third place after trying to fight her way from the back but leaving herself too much to do.
In the second semi-final, Choi finished third behind the Netherlands’ Suzanne Schulting and Shim but was advanced to the final after a penalty call on China’s Qu. The final would now involve five skaters, including Shim and Choi, whose golden hat-trick was still alive.
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