Short Track

Wang cruises to 500 victory

Ohno, US relay team advances

China’s Wang Meng (left) celebrates gold; Marianne St-Gelais is happy with silver. China’s Wang Meng (left) celebrates gold; Marianne St-Gelais is happy with silver. (Mark Baker/Associated Press)
By Beth Harris
Associated Press / February 18, 2010

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - There are few sure things in the capricious sport of short track speedskating. Wang Meng is one of them.

The Chinese woman easily won her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 500 meters last night, defending the title she won at Turin.

“I would have to say I’m more mature now and more clear-minded about short track skating,’’ she said through a translator. “However, on the final two laps tonight, I still felt my legs shaking. I guess when you’re so close to what you’ve always wanted, it’s natural to be shaken.’’

Wang led all the way after surviving a restart and a false start in the four-woman final at Pacific Coliseum.

Apolo Anton Ohno, considered the face of short track, easily advanced through preliminaries of the men’s 1,000, and helped the United States move on to the 5,000 relay final. The 1,000 final is Saturday, when Ohno can add to his cache of six Olympic medals and become the most decorated US Winter Olympian. He already won a silver in the 1,500 last weekend.

“I just don’t want to leave any room for error. I don’t want to leave any microsecond of time that I feel like could make a difference toward a medal,’’ Ohno said. “For me, I’m doing the best I can for every single day. That’s how I am. I’m here to do a job. I’m here to represent the US the best that I can.’’

In the women’s 500, Wang cruised home a whopping seven-tenths of a second - an eternity in short track - ahead of Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais, who took silver. Arianna Fontana of Italy earned the bronze.

Wang eased up a bit near the end, not bothering to try to lower her own Olympic record.

“I didn’t think about anything but the end result,’’ she said. “I wanted to be first across the finish line.’’

The final was restarted after Canadian Jessica Gregg went down and her teammate St-Gelais followed in the first turn. After some ice repair, the women returned to the starting line.

Then there was a false start. But Wang stayed calm throughout the delays.

“Of course I feel pressure,’’ she said. “But when 1.3 billion people are watching you, you turn that pressure into motivation. The best way to deal with stress is to turn it around and make it motivation.’’

She darted to the lead on the inside lane and stayed there the entire way, making it a race for the lesser medals among the other three women.

American Katherine Reutter won her 500 quarterfinal heat, but couldn’t match the speed of her rivals in the semis and was relegated to the consolation final, where she finished third.

“The 1,500 is my best event anyway, so bring it on,’’ she said.

Ohno remained on course to break a tie with Bonnie Blair as the most decorated US Winter Olympian.

After skating his individual race, Ohno helped the United States advance to the 5,000 relay final with a second-place finish in its semifinal heat.

Ohno was third most of the way in the 1,000. Then, in the closing laps, he moved up to second before taking the lead over China’s Liang Wenhao.

American J.R. Celski, the bronze medalist in the 1,500, joined Ohno in reaching Saturday’s quarterfinals of the 1,000. Their teammate Travis Jayner wasn’t so lucky. He was in second when he hit a block with his right skate in the final turn and lost his balance, costing him a chance to move on.

Ohno then joined Celski, Simon Cho and Jayner in qualifying for the 5,000 relay final on Feb. 26. Also advancing to the 5,000 relay final were South Korea, China and Canada, led by Charles Hamelin.