China's Li wins crash-filled 500 Olympic final

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2014 at 8:06 am •  Published: February 13, 2014
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — In the slippery world of short track, China kept its grip solidly on the Olympic gold medal.

Li Jianrou extended her country's dominance in the women's 500 meters Thursday, winning its fourth consecutive title after she was the only skater who didn't fall in the wild final.

Three-time defending champion Wang Meng of China missed the Olympics after breaking her ankle last month. Li had little experience in the wild and woolly sprint, where getting off to a quick start is important. But she kept her cool while everyone else was falling around her.

"I feel very lucky," Li said through a translator.

She and one of her coaches cried tears of joy after China joined South Korea as the only countries to win the same short track event four Olympics in a row. The Koreans won the 3,000 relay in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

"I cried because I was so excited," Li said. "My coach told me this medal is for Wang Meng as well, so I felt very moved."

Li's victory made up for the surprising fall of teammate Fan Kexin in the semifinals.

Arianna Fontana of Italy took the silver and Park Seung-hi of South Korea earned the bronze.

Elise Christie of Britain caused the crash in the second turn of the opening lap when she veered into Fontana and sent both skaters spinning into the pads.

"I saw Elise come in and thought I'd stop her, but she kept going," Fontana said. "This is short track, so that's what happens. When I was falling I was so sad, then I saw the Korean girl fell and I thought I could still get something so I got up as quickly as I could. I got my silver medal, but for me it's gold."

Park got clipped and lost her balance going into the next turn. She fell into the sideboard, but got up and resumed skating. Li was closely trailing in last place when the chaos erupted. She took over the lead and went on to victory.

"I had more speed so I tried to stay out of reach of the fourth-place skater (Li)," Christie said. "I tried to pass and got bumped by the girl on the outside (Fontana)."

Park came across the line in last place, but Christie got disqualified, allowing Park to claim the bronze.

In the semis, Fan didn't even complete the first lap of the sprint, catching her left blade as she skated near the front. She crashed on all fours into the crew of workers who maintain the ice between races. They scrambled onto the top of the pads to avoid being injured by Fan's long, sharp blades.

Christie was lucky to be in the 500 final, surviving a photo finish to advance to the medal round after Fan's crash.

Park was trying to give South Korea a victory in the only short track event it has never won.

"It is such a great disappointment," Park said through a translator. "But it is also part of my destiny. I have to accept it."

It was a tough day at the rink for the South Koreans. The men's team had a call go against them in the 5,000 relay semifinals after a crash involving Lee Ho-suk and American Eddy Alvarez.

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