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An-believable! Russians run 1-2 in men's 1,000

China's Zhou defends ladies 1,500-meter title; Knegt makes Dutch history
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Victor An celebrates his first-career Olympic gold medal while skating for Russia. The speed skater, who formerly represented Korea, won the men's 1,000 meters, edging teammate Vladimir Grigorev (behind An, arms raised), 1:25.325 to 1:25.399. An was also the 1,000-meter champion at the Torino Games in 2006. -Getty Images

Zhou wins ladies 1,500-meter short track

China's Yang Zhou won the ladies 1,500 meters for the second Olympics in a row, with Korea's Suk-Hee Shim finishing in second place and Italy's Arianna Fontana snagging bronze. With three races Saturday for those who reached the final, it was a challenging day for all competitors.

In the ladies 1,500-meter heats, all the favorites went through. U.S. skater Alyson Dudek finished fourth in her heat won by Jianrou Li and was out. Americans Emily Scott and Jessica Smith both qualified for the semifinals.

In the semifinals, Zhou and Shim easily qualified for the A Final, with Canada's Marie-Eve Drolet and Smith reaching the B Final. The second semifinal had Fontana and Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors making it to the A Final, and the third semifinal saw Li win and Scott advance based on a penalty.

In the A Final, Ter Mors took the lead with Zhou following. Then Scott took the lead and Fontana moved to the front. A fall brought three skaters down (Li, Scott and Kim). Kim was deemed guilty and got a penalty, while Li did not finish and Scott continued to finish fifth. In the front, the order remained steady with Zhou in front, Shim second and Fontana third. Ter Mors, who did not seem to have the power to attack, was fourth and failed to bring the Netherlands its first short track medal.

"I think this gold medal is for four years of hard work," Zhou said. "It means I'm able to top the podium."

"I am disappointed I was not able to overtake in the last moment, but overall, I am satisfied," Shim said. "It would be a lie to say I did not feel the pressure, but rather than focusing on that ... I am sorry I didn't fulfill the expectations of people who were cheering for me."

"My goal was to get into the final and once there to try to do something," Fontana said. "With five laps to go, I started to get tired, but I wanted to win that medal. This Olympic atmosphere was just amazing."

Dudek took a positive approach to missing the semifinals.

"I was drawn a really hard heat," Dudek said. "I put myself in a really good position by placing myself at the front of the pack, which gave me the best chance. I let my guard down at one point, and if I had just cut that one corner a little bit tighter, I wouldn't have let that one girl go through. I can't really be disappointed, though."

An comes through in men's 1,000-meter short track

Russia's Victor An did what he set out to do: He won the 1,000-meter men's battle. His teammate, Vladimir Grigorev, took the silver, and Dutch skater Sjinkie Knegt gave the Netherlands its first short track medal in Olympic history (not counting 1988, when it was still a demonstration sport).

No American skaters reached the final, with Eddy Alvarez stumbling in the third quarterfinal after not being able to skate around fallen Canadian Charles Hamelin.

"It just happened," Alvarez said. "I was going to make my move in the last few laps and was looking forward to race, but it didn't happen. There was no reason to be advanced, as I was only third at that moment.

"He was like, 'I'm sorry, man,' in his French accent. I said 'It's OK.' He's a great skater. It's unfortunate for him. It's unfortunate for me, too, but it's part of the sport. It was a freak thing."

"My right blade slipped a bit around the corner," Hamelin said. "I was about to do a pass and the ice just broke under my blades. I think it's the biggest disappointment of my Games. It was my distance and I wanted to win a medal at this distance, but I fell on my own and I need to focus now on the next race."

As for the other Americans, J.R. Celski fell in the fourth heat and did not finish the race, limping painfully off the ice. Chris Creveling lost second place in his heat (first one) when Tianyu Han of China overtook him and cleverly pushed his way into the next round. 

In the A Final, Knegt took the lead, but soon the Russians took over, with An going from fourth to first. Wu skated behind them, and then later, Sin was on their tail. Three laps before the end, Knegt overtook the third spot and never gave up his position behind the two Russians. An and Grigorev took turns at first, and -- as the Russian coach said later -- their main task was to keep positions one and two.

"Of course I'm happy," said An, who formerly skated for Korea. "I'm very happy, but I'm even more happy because Russia managed to win both the gold and silver."

"I was speaking to Victor earlier, and it was our strategy for us to go fast so it would be impossible for the other athletes to chase us," Grigorev said.

"I can't find any words," Knegt said. "I'm so happy. This is the first short track medal for the Netherlands, and I still can't believe it."

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