Despair for China in grudge clash at Sochi Games
Reversal of fortunes as South Korea, who were disqualified in women's 3,000-metre speed skating relay in Vancouver, win gold in Sochi while the former champions lose out
There was an Olympic reversal of fortunes for China at the Sochi Winter Games on Tuesday with South Korea winning the "grudge match-up" women's short-track speed skating 3,000-metres relay - and China being disqualified after finishing second.
After finishing first four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans had been disqualified for illegal contact, with gold falling to China. This time it was the Chinese team of Fan Kexin, Li Jianrou, Liu Qiuhong and Zhou Yang - ousted by Koreans Cho Ha-ri, Kim Alang, Park Seung-hi and Shim Suk-hee - who suffered the ignominy of disqualification over a last-lap indiscretion.
After Shim's winning pass on the last of 27 laps landed the gold for South Korea, Paul Marchese - an American working as China's assistant coach - said the referee had indicated Zhou had been judged too close to the track while not racing.
Shim said afterwards: "Even though I did not take part in the Vancouver Olympics ... when I crossed the line I thought of that moment four years ago when my country was disqualified. I was happy because this meant a lot to the whole team."
Like their opponents four years ago, China were devastated following the race. "According to the judges, when Zhou exchanged, she was on the track and impeded skaters behind her," said China coach Li Yan.
"But according to what I saw, there were two to three metres between her and the Korean skater, and a skater is allowed to go on to the track when they exchange. But the judges' decision is the final one.
"We are disappointed, but we respect it."
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 1,000m 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.
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. She pumped her right arm and smiled broadly as she crossed the finish line.
In the men's 500m, Viktor Ahn of Russia easily advanced to the quarter-finals, putting himself in a position to become the first skater to win an Olympic gold medal in all four individual short-track events. South Korea-born Ahn won his adopted country's first gold in the 1,000m, and earned a bronze in the 1,500m.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse