Short Track Speedskating

Getty Images

Olympic, world champions miss South Korea Olympic short track team

Leave a comment

No South Koreans will face more pressure to earn medals at the PyeongChang Olympics than short track speed skaters. The team named after this past weekend’s Olympic Trials includes several new faces, leaving off Olympic and world champions.

The surprises came on the men’s side.

Double 2010 Olympic champion Lee Jung-Su, the top South Korean male skater this World Cup season, failed to make the Olympic team.

As did Sin Da-Woon, the 2013 World overall champion who won the 1500m at the 2017 World Championships.

Instead, the team will be led by Seo-Yi Ra, who clinched his spot last month by winning the world overall title. The rest of the team includes fellow Olympic rookies Lim Hyo-JunHwang Dae-Heon and Kim Do-Kyoum, which Yonhap News Agency called “no-names.” Kwak Yoon-Gy, a 2010 Olympian, rounds out the men’s roster of five.

The South Korean men shockingly went medal-less in Sochi, a result that simply cannot be repeated at South Korea’s first home Olympics. The 2018 Olympic men’s team includes zero holdovers from the most recent Olympics for the first time since short track’s debut at Albertville 1992.

South Korea has won 53 Winter Olympic medals. A total of 42 of them have come in short track. South Korea has won 21 Olympic short track gold medals. The next-highest country has won nine.

The South Korean women’s team for PyeongChang has more star power in Shim Suk-Hee and Choi-Min Jeong, who combined to win the world overall titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

They’ll be joined by Sochi Olympian Kim Alang and Olympic rookies Lee Yu-Bin and Kim Ye-Jin.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: List of NHL stars’ stances on trying to play at 2018 Olympics

Takeaways from World Short Track Speed Skating Championships

AP
Leave a comment

Three thoughts off the weekend’s World Short Track Speed Skating Championships …

1. Elise Christie is one of the great athlete stories for PyeongChang

The Briton won the 1000m and 1500m and finished third in the 3000m last weekend to become the first European woman to bag the world overall title. It marked the peak of a decade-long ascent for the two-time Olympian who was a figure skater until age 15.

Christie had a nightmare Sochi Olympics. She was disqualified from the 500m final (colliding with another skater), disqualified from the 1000m semifinals (colliding with another skater) and disqualified from the 1500m opening round (finishing too far inside).

Christie was cyberbullied as well, reportedly by South Korean accounts upset that her collision in the 500m final wiped out Park Seung-Hi‘s shot at gold. Christie’s Twitter account was temporarily deactivated.

“It took me about two years to get over what happened in Sochi, not just the outcome but also the repercussions after what people had said,” Christie said on the BBC on Tuesday. “I lost a lot of self-confidence as a person, outside of sport, but obviously I’ve learned to live with who I am now.”

She rebounded at the world championships, winning one medal in March 2014, then two in 2015 and three in 2016, plus the overall bronze.

Christie won multiple races at World Cup stops in Shanghai and the 2018 Olympic venue of Gangneung, South Korea, in December (saying she was received warmly by South Koreans in Gangneung). But she suffered a concussion in January, knocking her out of February’s World Cups.

Christie said she lost vision in her left eye with numbness all down the left side of her face. She experienced headaches and wasn’t able to sleep properly.

Yet in Rotterdam, Christie was superb. In the 1000m in particular, passing two South Koreans with two laps left in her semifinal and then making passes on three of the last four laps to win the final.

“World champion overall has always been my dream goal,” Christie told the BBC. “The Olympic goal is obviously a dream, but this is more because you have to be consistent. You have to get everything right again and again and again.”

An Olympic gold in PyeongChang “would make everything from Sochi just disappear,” she said.

2. South Korean men rise up, women suffer misfortune

Of South Korea’s 53 Winter Olympic medals, 42 have come in short track speed skating. South Koreans have won twice as many Olympic short track golds than any other country.

So the world championships, one year before South Korea hosts its first Winter Olympics, were huge.

The South Korean men came through, unlike the Sochi Winter Games, where they went medal-less for the first time in Olympic history.

Seo Yi-Ra won South Korea’s first overall world title in four years, ending its longest stretch between men’s overall titles since the Koreans came to prominence 25 years ago. Sin Da-Woon, part of that desultory effort in Sochi, added the 1500m gold. South Korea earned at least one medal in all four individual men’s races in Rotterdam.

The South Korean women were not successful. Stunning considering Shim Suk-Hee and Choi Min-Jeong combined to win the last three overall world titles. Shim, a triple 2014 Olympic medalist who changed the last four digits of her phone number to 2018, salvaged the team’s effort by winning the final individual race, the 3000m, in Rotterdam.

Choi, 18, was bidding for her third straight overall title but came home with no medals. It was largely as a result of bad luck. She crashed in the 1500m final and the 500m semis, with other skaters at least partially to blame. In the 1000m, Choi was passed for the lead by Christie on the final lap and appeared to have silver wrapped up, but was disqualified.

The South Koreans can take solace in the fact that Russian Viktor Ahn, the former South Korean Ahn Hyun-Soo, struggled in Rotterdam. Ahn, who was .077 away from sweeping the Sochi Olympic golds, earned just one medal over the weekend, a bronze in the 3000m. Ahn was not a factor in the 1500m and 500m finals and was eliminated in the 1000m quarterfinals after taking last season off.

3. U.S. struggles

Only one U.S. skater qualified for a final — three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski, who was eighth in the 1500m. The U.S. went medal-less at a third straight worlds, its longest drought in at least 20 years. This comes after the U.S. earned no individual medals at the Olympics for the second time in the sport’s short Olympic history (since 1992).

The U.S. program has descended since Apolo Ohno‘s last Olympics in 2010. Its headlines since have centered on skate-tampering and coaching-abuse scandals.

But there is a bit of a silver lining heading into the Olympic season.

Celski, the biggest U.S. star, could still be finding his form after significant knee and hip injuries. Katherine Reutter, a 2010 Olympic medalist and 2011 World champion, showed promising signs making World Cup finals this season after a three-year retirement. But Reutter missed worlds after a concussion earlier in the winter.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: One year out: PyeongChang Olympic storylines

Short track world records broken, fallen champion remembered in Salt Lake City

Short track world records
US Speedskating
Leave a comment

An enduring moment of the World Cup short track speed skating stop near Salt Lake City, Utah, this weekend came well after five world records fell.

Following two days of racing, officials at the Utah Olympic Oval changed out a world records display board with the new marks set in perhaps the fastest meet of all time.

One of the fallen records belonged to South Korean Noh Jin-kyu, the 2011 World overall champion who died of cancer on April 3 at age 23.

In January 2014, Noh broke an elbow one month before what was to be his Olympic debut in Sochi. Under further inspection, a malignant tumor was found in his shoulder showing he had bone cancer, forcing him off the Olympic team and into chemotherapy.

At the Olympic Oval on Sunday, the panel with Noh’s 1500m world-record time, broken by the Netherlands’ Sjinkie Knegt earlier that day, was handed to the South Korean team, reportedly to bring to Noh’s family. A moment of silence was also held for Noh.

Knegt, the 2015 World overall champion best known for this obscene gesture, was one of many record breakers this past weekend. The Utah Olympic Oval has been known since before the 2002 Olympics to be home to the world’s fastest ice, but that designation has been more associated with long-track speed skating than short track.

The new marks set, remarkably all but one by more than one second, came in five of the eight events on the Olympic program:

Men’s 1000m
Old Record: Semyon Elistratov (RUS, 2016) — 1:22.607
New Record: Daeheon Hwang (KOR) — 1:20.875

Men’s 1500m
Old Record: Noh Jin-kyu (KOR, 2011) — 2:09.041
New Record: Sjinkie Knegt (NED) — 2:07.943

Women’s 500m
Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2014) — 42.504
New Record: Elise Christie (GBR) — 42.335

Women’s 1500m
Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2008) — 2:16.729
New Record: Choi Min-jeong (KOR) — 2:14.352

Women’s 3000m relay
Old Record: South Korea (2013) — 4:06.215
New Record: South Korea — 4:04.222

Of all the record-breaking skaters, perhaps Choi deserves the most attention. The 18-year-old is the two-time reigning World overall champion. Given South Korea has no active female short track skaters with individual Olympic titles — its only one from 2010 or 2014 is now a long-track skater — Choi may face intense attention during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Viktor Ahn, the South Korean-turned-Russian who won three golds and one bronze in Sochi, didn’t compete on Saturday and Sunday due to a cold, according to Russian media.

Also in Salt Lake City last weekend, two American records fell out of 49 total national records set in two days. The U.S. team is trying to rebuild after earning zero individual medals in Sochi, its poorest showing at the Olympics since 1998.

Katherine Reutter, the two-time 2010 Olympic medalist coming back from a three-year retirement, broke her American 1000m record set when she took silver at the Vancouver Winter Games.

In two World Cups this season, Reutter has two fifths and a sixth-place finish. No U.S. woman has made the podium.

“I feel like I’m right below the threshold,” Reutter said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t know what it is that’s got to click, but I know when I get there, the game’s going to change. … I know that moment is coming. I just have to take my medicine and wait for it to get there.

“I’d really love a medal. But incremental steps are OK. To actually get sixth, that hurt my feelings. That is what it is.”

Keith Carroll, Jr. broke the American men’s record in the 1000m, previously held by 2014 Olympian Chris Creveling (set in 2012).

Also, John-Henry Krueger won the first individual U.S. World Cup medal in nearly two years, 1500m bronze, breaking the U.S.’ longest drought in the two-decade history of the World Cup.

Krueger, who trains in South Korea, is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal since the Sochi Olympics. He was plagued by swine flu during the 2014 Olympic Trials, missing the Sochi team after entering as one of the favorites.

The short track World Cup continues in Shanghai in December.

NBC Olympics researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Utah.

MORE: South Korean Olympic short track champ switches to long track