South Korea won the women’s Olympic short track 3,000-meter relay, passing China on the last lap to take the lead. The team of Cho Ha-ri, Kim Alang, Park Seung-hi and Shim Suk-hee crossed the finish line first after Shim made the winning pass on the last lap. Four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans finished first, but were disqualified.
This time, the Chinese team of Fan Kexin, Li Jianrou, Liu Qiuhong and Zhou Yang finished second, but was disqualified by the referees. Paul Marchese, an American working as an assistant coach for China, said the referee indicated Zhou was too close to the track while not racing and may have impeded another skater. But Marchese planned to review the video to clarify what caused the DQ.
Liu had earlier been disqualified in her 1,000 heat.
China’s penalty allowed the Canadian team of Marie-Eve Drolet, Jessica Hewitt, Valerie Maltais and Marianne St-Gelais to take the silver medal, a boost for St-Gelais after her elimination in the 1,000 heats.
The Italian team of Arianna Fontana, Lucia Peretti, Martina Valcepina and Elena Viviani earned the bronze, giving Fontana a third medal of the Sochi Games. She earned silver in the 500 and bronze in the 1,500.
South Korea led in the early going of the relay before China took the lead with 16 laps to go. The Koreans regained the lead with seven laps to go before China went in front again with three laps left.
With two to go, Li and Shim stayed on the ice instead of swapping out and Shim made a daring pass on a turn in the last lap, scooting to the lead for good. Shim pumped her right arm and smiled broadly as she crossed the finish, adding the gold to a silver she won in the 1,500 last weekend.
Li had already won gold in the 500, while Zhou won the 1,500.
In the men’s 500, Viktor Ahn of Russia easily advanced to the quarterfinals, putting him in position to become the first skater to win an Olympic gold medal in all four individual short track events.
The South Korea-born Ahn made it safely through his heat, cheered loudly by the mostly Russian crowd at Iceberg Skating Palace. He won his adopted country’s first gold in the capricious sport in the 1,000, and earned a bronze in the 1,500. Ahn became a Russian citizen in 2011, after winning three gold medals for South Korea at the 2006 Winter Games.
In the biggest surprise, Charles Hamelin of Canada was leading on the last lap of his heat when he crashed and smashed into the pads. It appeared he caught a blade in the turn and went down. He won gold in the 1,500 on the first day of short track in Sochi.
Hamelin’s crash cleared the way for Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands to win the heat. Kneght won his country’s first short track when he took bronze in the 1,000 last weekend.
J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., was the lone American to advance in his last individual event. Celski, who was fourth in the 1,500, finished second to Olivier Jean of Canada in his heat. Eddy Alvarez of Miami, Fla., who was third at the time, crashed in the turn and was eliminated. Jordan Malone of Denton, Texas, finished last in his heat.
Among other skaters moving on to Friday’s quarterfinals were Park Se-yeong and Lee Han-bin of South Korea, Wu Dajing, Liang Wenhao and 1,500 silver medalist Han Tianyu of China, and Vladimir Grigorev of Russia, the silver medalist in the 1,000.
Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands was advanced to the quarterfinals of the women’s 1,000 after tripping on a falling skater, keeping alive her bid to win Olympic medals in both short and long track speedskating.
The Dutchwoman already won a gold medal in the 1,500 at the big oval.
She was skating second behind leader St-Gelais early in her heat when the Canadian fell in the turn. Ter Mors tripped on her rival and staggered to the ice, but both women got up and finished. After a review, judges advanced Ter Mors to the next round, while St-Gelais was eliminated.
The only big name not advancing was China’s Liu, who was disqualified for impeding.
Among those moving on to Friday’s quarterfinals were South Koreans Shim, Park and Kim. They were joined by Fontana, Li, Fan, and Elise Christie of Britain, who won her heat by the biggest margin of any skater.
Jessica Smith of Melvindale, Mich., finished second in her heat and gained a spot in the quarterfinals.
“I wanted to be up front. That’s where I wanted to stay no matter what,” she said. “It’s about positioning and hopefully I can stay with what I’m doing and keep focused and get some good races.”