South Korea’s Choi Min-Jeong, Italy’s Arianna Fontana and Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands stood on the podium to receive the final short track medals of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
It was a fitting conclusion, as the triad accounted for seven of nine individual women’s medals at the Games.
They became the first trio in the sport, men’s or women’s, to successfully defend individual gold medals from the previous Olympic Games.
“I love skating against Choi and Arianna," Schulting said. "That is why our sport is so beautiful. The quality of the finals and skaters is so high.”
Fontana collected three medals to reach 11 for her career, the most in short track history. Schulting became the first woman to secure four podium finishes at a single Olympics. Choi set the Olympic record time in the 1500m.
Defining storylines of the 2022 short track competition...
Schulting joined Viktor Ahn as the only two short track skaters to earn four Olympic medals at one Games. The 24-year-old became the first Dutch athlete to win a short track gold medal in 2018, and she upped herself with two in 2022.
She won the women's 1000m event for the second straight Olympics and the 3000m relay.
“I defended my 1000m gold and the pressure was super high," Schulting said made her Olympics special. "I did an amazing job on the 1000m, I am so proud of that. Also, on the relay, it's amazing we took gold with the team."
Schulting's raw speed made her a difficult racer to catch, as she set Olympic record times in three of five disciplines: women's 500m heats, 1000m quarterfinals (world record) and 3000m relay finals.
Most medals (of all time)
Fontana needed just one podium finish to become the first short track skater with nine medals. In the mixed team relay final on the first day of action, she helped the Italian squad secure the silver. Italy nearly claimed gold, as Pietro Sighel reached out his skate in a last-ditch effort to swipe the win away from China's Wu Dajing, but China won by 0.016 seconds.
It took Fontana just one more day to accomplish double digit podium finishes, as she defended her sprint distance crown in the 500m.
“I don’t really like the records," Fontana said. "Records are meant to be broken. I hope another female one day breaks my record. I feel honored for now to be the most decorated Italian athlete because there are other great female athletes that have won a lot. It’s an honor, it’s amazing.”
Most exciting finish
Italy nearly delivered the comeback of the Olympics in the mixed team relay final.
The race was split into two after a collision between the Hungarian and Canadian teams. China was running away with the victory, and the Italians could have coasted for second place. They did not, inching closer and closer over the final four laps.
China led by 0.85 seconds after Lap 15, 0.72 seconds after Lap 16, 0.32 seconds going into the final lap and then won by 0.016 ticks. Had the race been 10 meters longer, Sighel could have caught up.
“It was a huge relief," Wu said. "I have experienced too much in the past four years. Now we finally realized our dream."
The men's 1000m competition brought drama for reasons beyond exciting skating. Athletes flew into the boards left-and-right. Penalties were called in nearly every race from heats to the A Final.
A favorite in the competition, Hwang Dae-Heon of South Korea, made an inside pass on China's Ren Ziwei and Li Wenlong during the semifinal and received a penalty. The contact was minimal, and the South Korean team filed a protest with the lead official and International Skating Union.
The ensuing final restarted halfway through as a shard of metal from a skate sat on the track.
On tired legs, Hungary's Liu Shaolin finished first in the second go-around, stretching his skate to the blue line ahead of Ren. Liu then received a yellow card for creating contact twice, including during the final stretch. There was contact both ways, but Ren won gold for China.
Most dominant finals performance
There was one instance during the women's 3000m relay final in which the Netherlands did not look in total control. China grabbed the lead on the 18th of 27 laps and held on to it for a couple seconds. Xandra Velzeboer sprinted along the outside to cut in front to retain the advantage and create separation. The race for first was not close over the final seven laps as the Dutch set the Olympic record.
The team of Schulting, Velzeboer, Selma Poutsma and Yara van Kerkhof led for 24 laps total, 21 of the final 22.
"We fought so hard to show the world, and especially the people in the Netherlands, that we are also able to get gold medals in short track," Schulting said.
Most critical fall
Kristen Santos was less than a lap away from capturing the first short track medal by an American in the women's 1000m since 2010. The 27-year-old held onto podium position until she and Fontana bumped while fighting for third place. They both slipped into the padding. Schulting won, Choi crossed the line second and Hanne Desmet of Belgium grabbed third.
Fontana was penalized for initiating the contact, and Santos lost her best chance for a podium finish.
The American posted on Instagram that her fall in the 1000m final was "heartbreaking."
Santos crashed or was bumped out of line four times in five disciplines, including the 1500m semifinal that eliminated her final opportunity for a win.
Most medals by a country
The battle for the top country in short track came down to the final race. Choi's victory in the 1500m gave South Korea the edge with five medals while the Netherlands, Italy, China and Canada wrapped up the events with four each.
South Korea entered the 2022 Winter Olympics with the most all-time medals in the sport at 48. China and Canada were tied for second and still are with 37 each.
- American Corrine Stoddard had a painful Olympic debut. She crashed into the side padding during the 500m heats, and the force caused her knee to smash into her face. She broke her nose, but the 20-year-old was back on the ice minutes later for the mixed team relay. She wore a bandage on her nose for the rest of the games, but that did not stop her from a top-10 finish in the women's 1000m.
- Hungarian Liu Shaoang won the first ever short track gold medal for Hungary in the men's 500m final. His brother, Shaolin, celebrated on the side. Shaoang said he thought they both should have earned gold medals at the Olympics.
- The four Dutch skaters who won the women's 3000m relay blew a kiss toward the sky on the podium. This was for Lara van Ruijven, a Dutch short track skater who died of an autoimmune disorder in 2020. She was on the bronze-medal winning team in 2018.
- Canada won the men's 5000m relay, and Charles Hamelin became the oldest short track gold medalist at 37 years old.
- No U.S. skaters earned medals in short track for the first time since the1998 Winter Olympics. The United States brought a young squad and had four skaters achieve individual top-10 finishes.