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South Korea grabs gold in women’s short-track 3,000-meter relay

AP, AFP-JIJI

South Korea defended its women’s Olympic short-track 3,000-meter relay title on Tuesday, overtaking China with two laps to go in the penalty-filled final.

The team of Shim Suk-hee, Choi Min-jeong, Kim Ye-jin and Kim Alang crossed the finish line first after rallying from third spot late in the 27-lap race. Four years ago in Sochi, the Koreans won when they passed China on the last lap to take the lead.

China finished second, but was penalized by the referees. That allowed Italy, which finished third, to move up to silver.

Canada was penalized, too, moving the Netherlands onto the podium for bronze. The Dutch had won the B final in a world-record time of 4 minutes, 3.471 seconds, bettering South Korea’s mark of 4:04.222 set in November 2016 at Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Canadians, with their arms on each other’s shoulders, watched the overhead video board intently. Their jaws dropped and they initially celebrated before realizing they too had been penalized.

Choi earned her second gold in her home Olympics, having won the 1,500 final. Earlier Tuesday, Choi, Shim and Kim Alang advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1,000.

Arianna Fontana of Italy added the relay silver to her earlier gold in the 500. She skated the relay with Lucia Peretti, Cecilia Maffei and Martina Valcepina.

The Dutch team of Suzanna Schulting, Yara van Kerkhof, Lara van Ruijven and Jorien ter Mors watched the chaos unfold from the sidelines, not expecting they would soon be celebrating a medal. Three of them jumped up and down on the pads surrounding the rink. Van Kerkhof earlier earned silver in the 500.

There was plenty of drama in the closing stages.

China led most of the relay final until Canada took the lead with six laps to go.

China snatched it right back on the next lap when the trailing Italian skater fell.

The Korean and Canadian skaters fell with four laps remaining and China still in the lead.

The Koreans went back in front and Choi battled Fan Kexin to the finish.

A distraught Fan had to be consoled by her teammates on the sidelines.

“It’s my first Olympics, we tried our best to continue Korea’s great record in the relay and of course it being in Korea we put lots of effort to do well at home,” Choi said.

In the men’s 500 heats, Wu Dajing of China won his heat in an Olympic-record 40.264 seconds.

Lim Hyo-jun, the 1,500 champion, moved on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. Canadian Samuel Girard, the 1,000-meter winner, and 1,000-meter bronze medalist Seo Yi-ra of South Korea also safely advanced.

Two big names — 2010 Olympic champion Charles Hamelin of Canada and Sjinkie Knegt of Hungary — were both penalized for impeding.

Knegt won silver in the 1,500.

Americans John-Henry Krueger, Aaron Tran and Thomas Hong were eliminated. Krueger earned silver in the 1,000, which so far is the only speedskating medal won by the U.S.

The only North Korean skater in the event, Jong Kwang Bom, fell in the first turn. Referees called for a re-start and Jong fell again coming out of the first turn while fighting for second place. He was later penalized.

In the women’s 1,000 heats, Choi, Fontana, Li and Kim Boutin of Canada were among those advancing.

So were Shim, van Kerkhof, Marianne St-Gelais of Canada and Kim Alang.

Elise Christie of Britain returned to competition after injuring her right ankle in a dramatic crash last weekend. But she went down going into the first turn and slid across the ice while grabbing at her ankle.

“I can’t describe the amount of pain I was in,” she said.

The referees allowed a re-start and Christie came off the line in last place. She nearly fell in a turn, but briefly rallied only to receive a yellow card after committing two penalties. She was carried to the locker room.

Americans Jessica Kooreman and Lana Gehring were eliminated.