China net their first Winter Games medal at Sochi, with 17-year-old teenager Han Tianyu taking the silver in the men’s short track 1,500 metres on Monday ahead of home-crowd favourite Victor An, who won bronze.
Canada’s Charles Hamelin grabbed gold, while An seized Russia’s first Olympic medal in the sport.
The Chinese teen Han, who admitted to being “a little nervous” at his first Olympics, took silver, with the three medallists finishing far ahead of the chasing pack.
An ecstatic Hamelin lunged over the barriers to wrap his girlfriend and teammate Marianne St-Gelais in a hug – echoing an iconic moment of the Vancouver Games when the coupled shared a kiss following Hamelin’s 500 metres gold-medal triumph that has become a YouTube hit.
The victory was Hamelin’s fourth Olympic medal and the first of a Games in which he looks competitive in another two individual distances as well as the 5,000m relay.
The Russian crowd reserved its biggest cheers for An, who won four Olympic medals for South Korea at the 2006 Turin Games before switching allegiance to Russia.
An stayed back in the pack of flashing blades for the first few laps of the race, but sneaked up to chase Han and Hamelin into the final stretch, winning his fifth Olympic medal and taking the home nation’s total to five.
American J.R. Celski, who won two bronze medals in Vancouver despite almost missing the Games due to a cut leg that required 66 stitches, looked in contention for the medal midway through the 13 and a half laps, but fell back to fourth.
In the notoriously unpredictable, high-velocity sport where crashes are frequent, world champion Sin Da-woon of South Korea failed to reach the A final after losing his balance and slamming into the barriers.