'Thanks Victor' - Korean short-track hero hails banned An - Daily Nation

'Thanks Victor' - Korean short-track hero hails banned An

Saturday February 10 2018

South Korea's Lim Hyojun (left) reacts beside Netherlands' Sjinkie Knegt after winning the men's 1,500m short track speed skating A final event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. PHOTO | MLADEN ANTONOV |

South Korea's Lim Hyojun (left) reacts beside Netherlands' Sjinkie Knegt after winning the men's 1,500m short track speed skating A final event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. PHOTO | MLADEN ANTONOV |  AFP

By AFP
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GANGNEUNG

Short-track speed skater Lim Hyo-jun paid tribute to banned Victor An after claiming host nation South Korea's first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Saturday.

Lim got Korea off the mark on the first full day of action in the men's 1500m, to the delight of an ecstatic, near-capacity 12,000 crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

And his first thoughts were for the Korean-born naturalised Russian An, the sport's most decorated Olympian who was ruled ineligible after Russia were banned for systemic doping.

"Victor told me that I could do this, I've had lots of advice from him," said Lim.

"When I first saw him racing I dreamed of becoming a gold medallist.

"When I heard the news, (of An's exclusion) it was really dreadful, it would be an honour to race against him.

"I thank Victor for this win," said the 25-year-old.

In a frenetic final, Lim saw off Dutch world record-holder Sjinkie Knegt with Semen Elistratov, one of the Russians competing as a neutral, in third.

"I dedicate this bronze to all the guys who could not make it here," said Elistratov, referring to the Russians — including An — who were not invited to the Games.

"I'm very grateful to the Russian fans who managed to come to these Games to support our team because right now it is indeed a difficult situation we are experiencing."

With South Korea's President Moon Jae-in watching, together with American Vice-President Mike Pence, Lim delivered the goods to further embellish Korea's dazzling record in the sport with their 22nd short track title.

Korea had two shots at the target but Hwang Dae-heon crashed out of the final, causing a collective groan from the homex supporters.

Canada's Sochi 2014 champion Charles Hamelin scraped into the nine-skater climax in a four-way photo-finish in his semi-final, but there was to be no repeat for the bearded 33-year-old as he picked up a penalty.

Also on Saturday, South Korea's skating golden girl Choi Min-jeong remained on target for a potential four-gold medal haul.

The 19-year-old set a new Olympic record in her 500m heat to progress to next week's quarter-finals.

And she also helped her country win the 3,000m relay semi-final, also in a new Olympic mark roared on by deafening support.

Choi is also fancied for gold in the 1,000m and 1,500m.

Meanwhile also making it through to the 500m quarter-finals was Maame Biney, the sport's first female African-American Olympian, who made it as runner-up in her heat.

And Britain's Elise Christie, disqualified three times at Sochi four years ago, sailed through in her heat.

Earlier North Korea's first competitor at Pyeongchang got a big cheer as he tried in vain to make it out of his 1,500m heat.

Around 100 cheerleaders from North Korea let rip in support for Choe Un Song, but the 25-year-old was eliminated all the same.

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