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

Short track world records
US Speedskating
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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

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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