GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Canada’s Samuel Girard steered clear of some late lap mayhem to steal the Olympic short-track speedskating 1,000 meters gold medal on Saturday.
With a crash taking out three of five skaters as the pack entered the final lap, Girard held off John-Henry Krueger of the United States, who took the silver while South Korea’s world champion Seo Yira was quickest to get to his feet to secure a bronze.
Girard powered across the finish line then looked around to see who was behind him raising his fists into the air and signaling number one with both hands.
“This was a strong race, everyone wants to win the race. I was the guy in the front putting in a good pace that put everyone in trouble fighting to pass me. That was the key to the race,” explained Girard. “My plan was to put the other skaters in trouble and try to leave me alone.
“I know everyone wants to be in the front. One guy passed me and I went right back right away.
“It was my time to go, my time to shine in front.”
Girard’s victory recalled one of the more memorable finals seen on the Olympic short track when Stephen Bradbury skated away with the 1,000m gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games after all four other skaters fell on the last turn.
The carnage was not quite as spectacular as in Salt Lake as Girard still had to fight off a challenge from Krueger to break Asia’s domination of the 1,000m.
Six of the eight gold medals in this event have been claimed by South Koreans while another was won by Russian Viktor Ahn, who was born in Korea. Bradbury had the other.
Girard seemed destined for his first Olympic medal, narrowly advancing out of his semi-final when team mate and mentor Charles Hamelin was disqualified in an incident that involved the 21-year-old Canadian.
Hamelin, the winner of three golds and competing in his fourth and final Olympics, got up and was in Girard’s corner when he stepped onto the ice for the final.
“Just before the race he came to me and said ‘let’s go, you can do this’,” smiled Girard. “He just gave me a little tap and said, ‘you can do it’.”
One major obstacle to the gold medal was removed when the International Olympic Committee banned Sochi 1,000m champion Ahn from competing in Pyeongchang following an investigation into widespread state sponsored doping.
Editing by Clare Lovell