Short track-Choi retains 1,500 title, Fontana bags record 11th medal

BEIJING, Feb 16 (Reuters) - South Korea's Choi Min-jeong retained her short track speed skating 1,500 metres title as Arianna Fontana bagged a record-breaking 11th Olympic medal at the Beijing Games on Wednesday.

Choi was a cut above in a tense final at the Capital Indoor Stadium, clocking two minutes 17.789 seconds with Fontana taking silver less than a second behind.

The Italian threw her skate over the line to beat third-placed Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands by just 0.003 seconds.

It was Fontana's third medal in Beijing after gold in the 500 metres and silver in the mixed team relay.

The 31-year-old, who started her collection at her home Games in Turin in 2006, is now two shy of the Italian Olympic record of fencer Edoardo Mangiarotti, who won his 13 medals across five Summer Games between 1936 and 1960.

Behind Fontana is former cross country skier Stefania Belmondo, who won 10 medals in four Winter Games from 2006-18.

Fontana is the short track skater, female or male, with the most Olympic medals and now has three more than Viktor Ahn of Russia.

The 24-year-old Schulting, the sport's rising star, ended her Beijing Games with four medals, Wednesday's bronze adding to golds from the 1,000 metres and 3,000m relay and silver in the 500 metres.

"I'm a little disappointed because I felt so strong today," said Schulting.

"But a lot of things happen in short track and being the strongest is not always enough. And it turns out that two skaters were better than me today."

With International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach watching from the stands, Choi, Schulting and Fontana breezed through the quarter and semi-finals.

In the much-anticipated final, Fontana stayed hot on Schulting's heels as China's Han Yutong got off to a fast start.

She made her move with two laps to go, overtaking Schulting with a clever pass and holding off the Dutchwoman before draping herself in the Italian flag on a celebratory lap of the track.

Choi had already crossed the line to make sure all three of the medallists had retained their individual titles from Pyeongchang.

"Four years ago I was happy to win the 1,500m title but this time I'm happy and proud that I managed to successfully defend it," said Choi.

Reporting by Julien Pretot, Additional reporting by Krystal Hu; Editing by Ed Osmond and Alison Williams

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