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Space is tight in the short track relay races.
Kazakhstan benefit from a short track tale of the unexpected

13 Feb 2014
Sochi, Russia: If you are looking for speed and spills, drama and thrills at the Sochi Winter Olympics, you can’t beat the relay races in short track speed skating. Visitors to the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi Olympic Park on Thursday afternoon saw for themselves how fortunes can change in an instant, and how years of training and dreams of Olympic glory can slide away and crash into the fence.

Kazakhstan benefited from one such occasion, much to the delight of the Russian spectators who have been cheering for the Kazakhs like their own.

In the first semi-final of the men’s 5,000m relay, the Kazakhs found themselves up against the Netherlands, Korea and USA. Ninety-nine times out of 100, two of Kazakhstan’s three rivals here would clinch the two spots in the final.

But this was the one-in-a-hundred occasion, the Olympic Games, where athletes, coaches and spectators must expect the unexpected – and the unthinkable duly happened in this race when skaters from Korea and USA tangled and crashed into the fence with six laps to go. This allowed Kazakhstan to move up from a distant fourth place to second behind the Dutch and hang on to clinch a place in the final.

The Kazakh heroes were Abzal Azhgaliyev, Aydar Bekzhanov, Denis Nikisha and Nurbergen Zhumagaziyev, who were cheered wildly by their coach on their unlikely qualification for the final.

The United States were also awarded a place in the final because the judges ruled that they had been taken down by Korea.

In the next heat, the much-fancied Canada took a tumble, and Russia and China finished 1-2 to join the Dutch, Kazakhstan and USA in the final.

The women’s 500m races were full of drama, too, as China’s two-time world champion Fan Kexin stumbled in her semi-final and failed to qualify for the final.

In short track, the Olympic spirit of never giving up can often lead to the unexpected. Just ask Kazakhstan.
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