After the race, the judges penalized Choi for cutting the line promoting van Kerkoff and Kim Boutin(CAN) , to silver and bronze.
This is Fontana’s sixth Olympic medal but her first gold. This is also her third medal in this event, winning a bronze in the 500m in Turin 2006 and a silver in Sochi 2014.
Arianna Fontana wins 500m gold
Fontana equals Wang Meng (CHN) for the most medals by a woman in short track speed skating.
Boutin, Elise Christie (GBR), Choi, van Kerkhoff, and Fontana made up the five-racer final.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Italy’s Arianna Fontana won the Olympic women’s 500 metres race on Tuesday after a photo finish with home favourite Choi Minjeong who was later disqualified.
Boutin was elevated to the final by the judges after a collision in her semifinal.
China, which had won the women’s short track 500m at the past four Olympics, did not have a representative in the final after Fan Kexin and Qu Chunyu were penalized in the semifinals.
China’s Fan Kexin, world champion in the 500 metres for the past three years, was disqualified in the semi-finals.
Marianne St-Gelais (CAN) and Maame Biney (USA) were the two biggest names eliminated in the quarterfinal stage.
Fontana, 27, had won four bronze and one silver medal in previous Olympics but never topped the podium.
“Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t,” St-Gelais said to the media. “However, that’s done and I have to think about the other distances. It’s disappointing for sure because I don’t think I deserve this call.”
“I lost my rhythm throughout the whole race and I couldn’t find it again. Over the next four years, I’m going to try to find that rhythm and just keep going,” Biney said after the race.
Christie fell in the final again.Harry How/Getty ImagesThe conclusion was thrilling, as Christie, in fourth at the time, tried to force herself into the top three and had her hand swept by Boutin. She dropped to the floor and saw her chances of a podium spot effectively end.
Fontana dramatically claims 500m short-track gold
American John-Henry Krueger advanced to the 1000m quartfinals, while his teammate J.R. Celski was elminated.
Krueger jumped out to an early lead and was able to hold on the whole race.
Celski was involved in a crash that forced a restart in his heat. After the restart, Celski did not look his best and was visibly slow.
Medal favorite Seo Yi-Ra (KOR) finished third in his heat and was seemingly disqualified, but after the race the referee’s determined that Han Tianyu (CHN) was eliminated, advancing Seo. The news was received with cheers from the home crowd.
China, Canada, Hungary and South Korea advance to the 5000m relay finals. The South Korean team set a new Olympic record finishing in 6:34.510.
It was a blow for the home crowd, although things were about to get worse for Choi, as she was given a penalty and subsequently disqualified. Journalist Jaehwan Cho struggled to see where the infraction had come:
China had set a new Olympic record in the race with a time of 6:36.605 in the previous heat.
The United States relay team finished third in their heat and move on to the B final.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Choi Min-jeong skated around waving to the South Korean fans who chanted her name. Arianna Fontana grabbed the Italian flag in celebration.
This being wild and wooly short-track speedskating, the result of the women’s 500 meters waited on the judges’ decision.
Fans chanted Choi’s name, as if willing her to win the only Olympic short-track event that has eluded the powerful South Koreans.
But soon Choi was leaning over the rinkside padding listening to consoling words from her coach Tuesday night.
It was Fontana who was celebrating, jumping up and down in her skates and shaking her fists in triumph. The Italian earned her sixth career Olympic medal, equaling Wang Meng of China for most by a short-track skater.
The outcome hung in the balance for several minutes while the referees sorted out a photo finish between Choi and Fontana.
The photo showed Fontana’s skate blade crossed barely in front of Choi’s.
“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying,” Fontana said. “I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever.”
“I was on a strict diet,” she said. “I like to eat, I’m Italian, so I like to eat a lot of carbs. I had to cut that off.”
Fontana claimed a medal at her fourth different Winter Games, joining Tania Vicent of Canada as the only female short trackers to do so.
The referees assessed a penalty to Choi that shook up the order of finish.
“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,” Choi said. “But I feel sorry for the fans of Korea.”
Yara van Kerkhof of the Netherlands took silver and Kim Boutin of Canada earned bronze.
Choi had a roller-coaster ride to the final after surviving a three-way photo finish for second in the quarterfinals that allowed her to advance.
Elise Christie of Britain crashed on the last lap of the furious sprint final in which Boutin pushed Choi and Boutin caught Fontana’s left hand in her face as they careened at top speeds around the rink.
In a surprise, China failed to advance either of its skaters out of the semifinals. Fan Kexin and Qu Chunyu each got penalized.
Veteran Marianne St-Gelais of Canada was ousted in the quarterfinals after being penalized for impeding.
American teenager Maame Biney, an Olympic rookie at 18, finished last in her quarterfinal. She had to go up against wily veteran Fan, who along with Russian Sofia Prosvirnova, crowded out Biney as she tried to go for the lead early in the race.
“I’m still in that learning process of just trying to get back really quick because I don’t usually get bumped in the start,” Biney said. “I’m usually first or second. I’m going to have to figure out how to get back in the rhythm.”
The 500 was Biney’s only individual event of the games and it left her eager for more.
“Just for next time, the next four years, I’m going to try and find that rhythm and keep going,” she said.
In the men’s 1,000 heats, American John-Henry Krueger advanced to the quarterfinals by winning his heat and avoiding a collision that knocked down two other skaters.
The three-time Olympian was taken down in a three-man crash and he needed repair work on his right skate. Pavel Sitnikov, the Russian who caused the pileup, was penalized for impeding.
That left Celski and two other skaters to compete in the re-start. Celski was in contention early before finishing third, one spot out of advancing to the next round on Saturday.
Krueger and Celski later teamed with Thomas Hong and Aaron Tran for the 5,000 relay heats. They finished third, relegating the U.S. to the B final four years after earning silver in Sochi. That medal represented the only podium finish for the American speedskaters — long track or short track — in a stunning showing.
Among the big names advancing to the 1,000 quarterfinals on Saturday were 1,500 champion Lim Hyo-jun and teammates Hwang Dae-heon and Seo Yira of South Korea, Sjinkie Knegt and Liu Shaolin Sandor of Hungary, Wu Dajing of China, Charles Hamelin of Canada and Russian Semen Elistratov.
In the men’s 5,000 relay, China, Canada, South Korea and Hungary advanced to the Feb. 22 final.