Ice Network

Americans grab silver behind An, Russians in relay

Smith comes up one spot shy of 1,000-meter podium; An wins 500 meters
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The Americans celebrate their silver-medal finish in the men's 5,000-meter relay by raising the flag high into the air at the Iceberg Skating Palace. -Getty Images

Men's 500 meters

Victor An won the men's 500 meters for Russia, beating China's Dajing Wu, who got silver, and Canadian Charle Cournoyer, who claimed the bronze. Wenhao Liang of China fell and finished in fourth. An took advantage of Liang's fall with two laps left to move to second before passing Wu at the start of the final lap to cross into first.

Han Tianyu of China won the B Final ahead of American J.R. Celski, Great Britain's Jon Eley and Dutchman Sjinkie Knegt. Celski survived the quarterfinals only barely, as he hit the ice in the second quarterfinal and crossed the line in third place. The referees then disqualified Korean Se Yeong Park for knocking Sakashita to the ice, and because of Park's disqualification, Celski finished second.

An collected four medals at these Olympics, winning the 500 meters, 1,000 meters, snagging bronze in the 1,500 meters and, later on, capturing gold in the 5.000-meter relay. In Torino at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, he won three golds and a bronze as well.

"As an athlete, I think I reached the top position, a great honor," An said. "Never thought it would be possible for me to finish these Olympics with such great results. The season is not over yet. So many people supported me."

"I was expecting to be good, but the bronze medal?" Cournoyer said. "It was a fog for me. I was just racing, doing what I know.

"An is a great skater," he continued. "He won three gold medals. I feel he is just the best skater that ever skated. Just amazing."

Ladies 1,000 meters

The Asian skaters in the final took all the medals. Seung-Hi Park of Korea won her first Olympic gold medal after claiming two bronze medals in 2010; Kexin Fan of China took silver, overtaking Korean Suk-Hee Shim in the closing laps; and Shim won bronze, leaving the fourth-place finisher, American Jessica Smith, empty-handed.

Smith had already exceeded expectations by reaching the A Final, reaching after Canadian Valerie Maltais fell in the final moments. Maltais lost the B Final to Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors.

USA's Emily Scott got out in the quarterfinals, as did Italy's Arianna Fontana (famous for her podium faces), who had been hoping for another medal.

"We didn't have any special plan, since every situation is different," said Park of winning while her teammate, Shim, took bronze. "Fortunately, we were able to do really well. For the last four years, we trained really hard, and today's success is the result of our training. The Korean team has a very strong mental capability. I think today's result shows it."

"It was my first Olympics," Fan said. "I am surprised with what I achieved today, as it is not my strength."

The world record-holder in this distance, 17-year-old Shim, probably showed her youth by not being able to hold on to the silver-medal position, wearing herself out when she battled for the early lead with Park.

"I made many mistakes here," Shim said. "I will just have to keep training harder."

"Anytime you are in an A Final in short track, it's a positive thing," Smith said, "But at the end of the day, you want to get to the podium when you are that close.

"I wanted to be involved in the race and start moving around early. With two Koreans and a Chinese in your race, you don't want to hold anything back.

"It has been a roller coaster," Smith continued. "I can say that I skated every race with heart. I am proud of the way things have gone."

Men's 5,000-meter relay

The men's 5,000-meter relay had a hectic final with five teams, and the challenges presented by the cluttered track appeared right away. Both the Dutch and the Chinese team fell, making it easy for the Russian and U.S. team to take the lead.

Most of the race saw the Russians in first position, with USA very close behind. Behind, there was a gap to Kazakhstan, then a gap to China and the Netherlands, who were fighting to come back. With An at full speed and spurred on by the home crowd, Russia was too much for the Americans. Eventually, Kazakhstan got tired, and the battle between China and the Netherlands was for bronze. The Dutch had the lead with two laps to go, but in the last exchange, they allowed the Chinese to rush past them to the bronze.

The U.S. team, consisting of Eddy Alvarez, Celski, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone, won silver, its first medal of these Games in either short track or long track. Both USA and Russia were faster than the former Olympic record of 6:43.3, as the Americans skated in 6:42.371 and Russia set the new Olympic record of 6:42.100.

"Before the Olympics, short track was not very well known," An said. "One of my missions was to make short track well-known in Russia. I really wanted a medal in the relay, too, so I am very happy with that.

"I am tied with Ohno in number of Olympic medals," An continued. "It made me realize the greatness of Ohno; it is really hard to get so many medals in three Olympic Games. This year's Olympics will be the best in my life; I will never forget it."

An's teammates benefited immensely from his greatness.

"Victor is pushing us forwards as we grow with him," Semen Elistratov said.

"I can boast that I trained in the strongest team in the world," Ruslan Zakharov said. "It's a great honor to be part of this team."

The Americans were thrilled to reach a podium.

"This is the first speed skating medal in these Olympics," Alvarez said. "We struggled individually to bring home some medals. It shows how strong a bond we have. We are brothers, and it is an honor to bring silver home to the States."

Jordan Malone recognized the chaotic nature of short track, where falls can help or hurt your team in an instant.

"It doesn't always happen in our favor," Malone said. "You have to love your sport also in these circumstances. It is not always about the fastest team that crossed the line.

"We are excited for the Russian team as well. We thank Russia for taking the lead in that one and pushing the pace. We did not want China and the Netherlands to get back in the race. I'm just thankful for the silver."