Skaters deliver double golden delight for China
Li Jianrou stands tall as rivals fall to be country's first champion of the Games, while outsider Zhang Hong powers to gold in 1,000m event
In the slippery world of short track, China kept their grip solidly on the Olympic gold medal and three hours later an outside chance delivered the country its second.
Li Jianrou extended China's dominance in the women's 500 metres yesterday, winning their fourth consecutive title after she was the only skater who did not fall in the wild final.
China's four-time defending Olympic champion, Wang Meng, missed the Sochi Winter Games after breaking her ankle in training last month.
Li had little experience in the wild and woolly sprint, where getting off to a quick start is important. But she kept her cool, while everyone else was falling around her.
"I feel very lucky," the 27-year-old Li said through a translator.
She and one of her coaches cried tears of joy after China joined South Korea as the only countries to win the same short track event four Olympics in a row. The Koreans won the 3,000 relay in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
"I cried because I was so excited," Li said. "My coach told me this medal is for Wang Meng as well, so I felt very moved."
In the 1,000 metres event, Chinese outsider Zhang Hong powered to the women's 1,000m speed skating gold, as her vaunted rivals struggled to match her blistering pace.
Zhang, racing in the seventh pair, clocked 1 minute 14.02 seconds and although a number of racers threatened her mark, they could not sustain a challenge.
Ireen Wust of the Netherlands took silver in 1:14.69 and Dutch compatriot Margot Boer won bronze in 1:14.90.
Li's victory, meanwhile, made up for the surprising fall of China's gold medal favourite Fan Kexin in the semi-finals.
Fan did not even complete the first lap of the sprint in her semi-final, catching her left blade as she skated near the front. She crashed on all fours into the crew of workers who maintain the ice between races. They scrambled on to the top of the pads to avoid being injured by Fan's long, sharp blades.
Italian Arianna Fontana took the silver and Park Seung-hi, of South Korea, earned the bronze.
Elise Christie, of Britain, caused the crash in the second turn of the opening lap when she veered into Fontana and sent both skaters spinning into the pads.
"I saw Elise come in and thought I'd stop her, but she kept going," Fontana said.
"This is short track, so that's what happens. When I was falling I was so sad, then I saw the Korean girl fall and I thought I could still get something, so I got up as quickly as I could. I got my silver medal, but for me it's gold."
Park got clipped and lost her balance going into the next turn. She fell into the sideboard, but got up and resumed skating.
Li was closely trailing in last place when the chaos erupted. She took over the lead and went on to victory.
Associated Press, Reuters