SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Viktor Ahn advanced to the 1,500-meter short track final on Monday, giving him a chance to win his adopted Russia its first medal in the chaotic sport.
Ahn finished second in his semifinal heat behind Han Tianyu of China. Ahn was a three-time gold medalist for his native South Korea, but after missing the Vancouver Games four years ago, he changed his name and became a Russian citizen. He was known as Ahn Hyun-soo when he won gold in the 1,500 at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
The 1,500 semis were full of risky moves, and some resulted in spills and penalties. A French skater quickly came up on Han and needed to steady himself on the Chinese’s rear end, resulting in his elimination. Ahn and Han advanced to the evening final at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., the 2010 bronze medalist, benefited from a shocking crash in his tough semifinal. Sin Da-woon of South Korea was leading going into the turn with teammate Lee Han-bin in second when Sin fell and took out Lee. Both Koreans went sliding into the padding, clearing the way for Celski to take the lead in the 14-lap race.
Celski won and Chen Dequan of China took second, moving both skaters on to the final. Sin qualified for the ‘B’ final, while the judges advanced Lee to the ‘A’ final, keeping alive his bid for a medal.
Charles Hamelin of Canada won his semi with Jack Whelbourne of Britain finishing a surprising second. While attempting an inside move, Eddy Alvarez of Miami, Fla., knocked Yuri Confortola of Italy sideways. He didn’t fall, but Alvarez was penalized.
Chris Creveling of Kintersville, Pa., was eliminated in the heats.
In the women’s 500 preliminaries, Fan Kexin of China won her heat as she bids to extend her nation’s dominance in the sprint race. For the first time since 2002, someone other than Wang Meng will win the gold. Wang broke her ankle in training last month, forcing her to miss these games.
Also advancing were Marianne St-Gelais of Canada and Arianna Fontana of Italy, the silver and bronze medalists from Vancouver. South Koreans Shim Suk-hee, Park Seung-hi and Kim Alang moved on.
Joining Fan in Thursday’s semifinals were fellow Chinese skaters Liu Qiuhong and Li Jianrou.
In a surprise, Emily Scott of Springfield, Mo., was the lone American to qualify for the semis. Skating in Fan’s heat, Jessica Smith of Melvindale, Mich., fell on the first lap after it appeared her blade made contact with the skate of Russian Valeriya Reznik, but the judges made no change in the order of finish.
Alyson Dudek of Hales Corners, Wis., finished third in her heat; only the top two advanced.