Gangneung - 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 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
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, equalling the record held by China's Wang Meng.
Choi wasn't the only one feeling battered and bruised by the race, as there was also heartache for Briton's Elise Christie.
Disqualified three times at Sochi, the world champion held every
chance until a wipe-out on the final lap sent her hurtling into the side
"It's obviously really hard to explain, I've worked so hard for that
moment out there and I got knocked over," said the distraught Christie.
"It's so out of my control but almost that feels worse - at least I
can go home and think I didn't make any mistakes, but it still sucks."
Christie had motored into the final, setting a new Olympic record in
her quarter final as Choi scraped through hers in a three-way photo.
But Christie's record stood for all of 10 minutes as Choi lowered it in her semi, with Fontana crossing the line in her shadow.
For Fontana, Italy's flag bearer at the opening ceremony, it was a
deserved result after five medals but no title from her three previous
Winter Games appearances.