GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korea’s Choi Minjeong powered her way to a gold medal in the Olympic women’s short-track speedskating 1,500 meters on Saturday, atoning for a heartbreaking disqualification in the 500m final.
Choi, the world record holder in the event, broke away from the pack with four laps to go, crossing ahead of China’s Li Jinyu and Canada’s Kim Boutin who collected her second bronze to go along with the one she took in the 500m.
With two finals and the prospect of Korean skaters winning both golds, the excitement inside a sold-out Gangneung Ice Arena was electric. The tension increased with each heat and the crowd, which included South Korean President Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook, exploded in cheers when Choi crossed the line first.
The final served as redemption for Choi who was denied a medal in the 500m on Tuesday when she was disqualified for interference after a photo finish with gold medal winner Arianna Fontana of Italy.
“I don’t think I would have achieved the result but for the support from so many people and friends, and the trust they’ve shown me,” Choi told reporters.
“Of course I have the weight of the public’s expectations on my shoulder but I’ve always thought that it’s something that I have to overcome.
“When I was disqualified in the 500 metre race, so many people, colleagues and my coach have showed me support and trust.”
There was more hard luck for Britain’s Elise Christie who once again saw her bid for a medal come to a crashing end.
Christie, the world champion over the distance, tangled with another skater entering the final turn sending her slamming into the boards.
She lay on the ice for several moments before being taken off on a stretcher to polite applause.
The British Olympic Association said in a statement that Christie had undergone x-rays and has sustained no major injury.
“Following the race Elise Christie was taken to hospital accompanied by the team doctor, team physio and team leader,” said the BOA. “She has had an X-ray on her right ankle which has shown that there are no broken bones.”
One of the world’s top skaters, Christie has known nothing but Olympic frustration, sliding off track in the 500m final on Tuesday after crashing out or being disqualified in three events at the Sochi Winter Games.
Boutin, who was the target of death threats on social media when she was awarded the 500m after Choi was disqualified, showed her grit and courage ignoring the ugly comments and grabbing another medal that was greeted more positively by the Korean crowd.
“My dad was there today and my mom was there, too,” smiled Boutin. “For me, it’s nice to have them close. It took me a lot of courage to get on to the podium so I’m pretty happy.”
Boutin’s bronze ended a long drought for Canada, the women’s 1,000m being the only one of eight short-track events the country had not won a medal in.
Additional reporting Soyoung Kim. Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Clare Lovell