VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada’s short track men triggered wild party scenes among home fans with two Olympic gold medals in half an hour on Friday and China completed a clean sweep of the women’s titles.
Charles Hamelin avoided a last-corner collision caused by 2006 champion Apolo Anton Ohno to win the 500 meters before helping his team survive a crowded 5,000 relay final to make up for losing the title on the last lap to South Korea in 2006.
“They will be going crazy in Quebec, they will be going crazy in Montreal, party all night,” Hamelin told reporters. “I got two gold medals in 30 minutes and it’s incredible.”
China’s Wang Meng won her third gold of the Vancouver Games, adding the 1,000 meter title to her 500 and relay golds. Zhou Yang had triumphed in the 1,500 meters.
“I don’t feel these three gold medals belong to me. What is important is that the Chinese short track team has won four (gold) medals,” the ginger-haired Wang told reporters.
Hamelin had endured a frustrating Games but made up for it by taking the 500 crown from American Ohno, who was disqualified for knocking over South Korea’s Sung Si-bak and Canadian Francois-Louis Tremblay just before the finish.
While Hamelin kissed girlfriend Marianne St Gelais, who won silver in the women’s 500, without waiting for the official result, Ohno sensed he would be disqualified as he circled the ice with an air of resignation despite crossing the line second.
The referee watched the replay and Ohno’s suspicions were confirmed when Sung was awarded silver and Tremblay bronze.
“There was no space ... I had so much speed, I put my hand up so as not to run into the Canadian but it was out of my control,” Ohno said.
Hamelin returned to the ice half an hour later to steer Canada to the relay title in a race featuring 20 skaters on the ice at the same time, making a normally hectic event chaotic. France had been advanced to make it five teams instead of four.
Hamelin, roared on every time he was pushed into the race, almost lost it for Canada with five laps to go as he slipped on the ice and almost tripped over but he regained his balance.
The Koreans took the silver and raised eyebrows with their unconventional celebrations. They unfurled a large Korean flag on the center of the rink and all knelt down and bowed their heads in unison.
The non-Koreans in the stands whistled the gesture, perhaps believing the Asian powerhouse, who had won the other two men’s titles, were trying to steal Canada’s moment of glory.
“We bowed in the direction of our coaches as we wanted to show them our thanks,” Kwak Yoon-gy told a news conference.
The United States grabbed the bronze to hand Ohno his third medal of the Games and eighth in three Olympics.
None of Ohno’s medals were gold this time but China’s Wang completed a hat-trick of top prizes in Vancouver.
She survived a near collision with South Korea’s Park Seung-hi and American Katherine Reutter on a bend with three laps to go in the 1,000 final but kept her nose in front to cross the line first. Reutter took silver and Park bronze.
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann and Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Ed Osmond