GANGNEUNG, South Korea: South Korea’s speed skating star Choi Min-jeong suffered a dramatic loss to Arianna Fontana in the women’s 500m short track on Tuesday, stunning the home crowd into silence.
Choi was edged out by barely half a blade by the much-decorated Italian, only to then suffer the added indignity of being disqualified for interference.For Choi, South Korea’s top medal hope at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, it was a major blow. She will also compete in the 1,000m and 1,500m, as well as the 3,000m relay.
“I prepared my best and I thought that even though the result does not come out well, I did a competition that I will not regret. But I feel sorry for the fans of Korea,” she said.“I still have other competitions left, so I will focus and concentrate on those.”Her unscripted reverse left the home nation, a powerhouse of the sport, still seeking a first title in the women’s 500m.
But for Italy’s Fontana, it was rich reward after subjecting herself to a monastic, pasta-free diet in the run-up to the Games.“I knew I was the fastest and more explosive than I’ve ever been,” she said.“Race by race I’ve gotten better and felt better and felt more able to win this medal. I was on a strict diet.
“I like to eat, I’m Italian, so I like to eat a lot of carbs. I had to cut that off.”Fontana’s hero is Valentino Rossi, and she displayed some of the Italian motorcycling legend’s pace and determination in fending off Choi’s last-ditch grab for gold as the line approached.
Dutch skater Yara van Kerkhoff of the Netherlands moved up to second with Canadian Kim Boutin in third.The 27-year-old Fontana went one better after taking silver at this distance at Sochi 2014, to go with the bronzes she picked up in the 1,500m and relay four years ago.She now has six short track medals to her name.