Men 500m podium ©Getty Images
It went fast and faster in the men’s 500m on the last day of Short Track at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Thursday night. Dajing Wu (CHN) won the Final A in a new world record time of 39.59. He seized China’s first gold medal at PyeongChang 2018. Korea took silver and bronze with Daeheon Hwang and Hyojun Lim. Samuel Girard (CAN), who had won the men’s 1000m gold last Saturday, finished fourth. All four men in the final finished in sub-40 second times.
Wu doesn’t leave anything to chance
Wu already broke John Celski’s (USA) 2012 Calgary world record (39.937) in the quarter finals, when he finished in 39.800. The 23-year-old skater won the quarterfinal, the semifinal and the final, all leading out from the start, skating at a pace the others were barely able to keep up with. Hanging in by the sin of their teeth Hwang and Lim also managed to skate faster than Celski’s world record in the final.
Dajing Wu (CHN) ©AFP
“Today, I didn’t give my competitors a chance,” said Wu. “I kept my speed from the start. More importantly, I think I believed in myself. There definitely was pressure. The Chinese team didn’t really perform to our potential and we came in today really determined.”
Despite the pressure, Wu seemed unaffected from the outside: “I do seem calm, but I’m really excited. On the field of play I was only focusing on the race, I did not want to leave anything to chance.”
The Olympic 500m title crowned Wu emperor of the 500m, after already having won 10 men's 500m races at world championships and in the World Cup since Sochi 2014. No other skater won this event more than four times in that span. Wu not only won China’s first Olympic title at PyeongChang 2018, but also handed China its first gold medal in the Short Track men’s 500m, after two previous silvers in the past.
“This is a new beginning for a new generation”, Wu said. “We’ve worked very hard and we look forward to Beijing 2022. This is a good start and in four years the results will be even greater.”
Always a new sunrise in Korea
With the silver Hwang won his first Olympic medal at age 18 years and 232 days, which made him the second-youngest man to win an individual Olympic medal for Republic of Korea, after Dong-Sung Kim, who was 18 years and eight days old when he won gold in the short track men's 1000m in 1998. The prodigy could not really celebrate after not having medaled in the 5000m relay, which was skated after the individual events on Thursday.
Daeheon Hwang (KOR) ©Getty Images
“I am bit disappointed with the 500m and the team relay. We didn’t do very well at the 1500 or 1000m so it was very hard for us. But tomorrow there is another sunrise. This is just one day in my life and one competition in my life. And I competed in the 500m and I had this result laid out before me. Of course I am a bit disappointed with my performance. We try hard and communicate with each other, I believe we have one gold in team work.”
Bronze medalist Hyojun Lim ended PyeongChang 2018 as the only man with multiple individual short track medals. He also won the men's 1500m on 10 February. Lim praised Wu after the race: “He has been a great athlete in this discipline. He is just an amazing athlete. We are not going to fight for the medal amongst ourselves. The speed was really fast, I didn’t know that the World Record would be broken. I think it is fortune that we got medals at all in these Games.”
Hyojun Lim (KOR) ©Getty Images