The Associated Press GANGNEUNG (AP) — Choi Min Jeong skated around waving to the South Korean fans who chanted her name. Arianna Fontana grabbed the Italian flag in celebration.
This being wild and wooly short-track speedskating, the result of the women’s 500 meters waited on the judges’ decision.
Fans chanted Choi’s name, as if willing her to win the only Olympic short-track event that has eluded the powerful South Koreans.
But soon Choi was leaning over the rinkside padding listening to consoling words from her coach Tuesday night.
It was Fontana who was celebrating, jumping up and down in her skates and shaking her fists in triumph. The Italian earned her sixth career Olympic medal, equaling Wang Meng of China for most by a short-track skater.
It was her first gold. “I was chasing it and I finally got it,” she said.
The outcome hung in the balance for several minutes while the referees sorted out a photo finish between Choi and Fontana.
Fontana looked to her coach for confirmation.
“He said, ‘I don’t know, but you did great,’” she said.
The photo showed Fontana’s skate blade crossed barely in front of Choi’s.
“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying,” Fontana said. “I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever.”
That meant sacrificing, especially at the dinner table.
“I was on a strict diet,” she said. “I like to eat, I’m Italian, so I like to eat a lot of carbs. I had to cut that off.”
Fontana claimed a medal at her fourth different Winter Games, joining Tania Vicent of Canada as the only female short trackers to do so.
The referees assessed a penalty to Choi that shook up the order of finish.
“I prepared my best and I thought that even though the result does not come out well, I did a competition that I will not regret,” Choi said. “But I feel sorry for the fans of Korea.”
Yara van Kerkhof of the Netherlands took silver and Kim Boutin of Canada earned bronze.
Choi had a roller-coaster ride to the final after surviving a three-way photo finish for second in the quarterfinals that allowed her to advance.
Elise Christie of Britain crashed on the last lap of the furious sprint final in which Boutin pushed Choi and Boutin caught Fontana’s left hand in her face as they careened at top speeds around the rink.