Russia takes gold in men's short track 5000m relay, US earns silver

Victor An celebrates after Russia wins the men's 5,000m short track relay. (Reuters)
Victor An celebrates after Russia wins the men's 5,000m short track relay. (Reuters)

 

What began as a five-team heat in Friday’s men’s short track 5000m relay, quickly morphed into a two-country race between Russia and the United States. 

Not fifty meters into the expansive race, skaters from the Netherlands (who’ve dominated at these Olympics) and China, wiped out, leaving the US in medal contention with Russia and Kazakhstan.

The majority of the race saw Russia's relay team leading, followed closely by Team USA. However at lap 15, the US (if only for a moment) maintained a slight lead buoyed by an exceptional skater transition. But with seven laps remaining, Russia overtook the US and wouldn't relent. 

Ultimately, Russia’s Victor An was able to fend off J.R. Celski over the final two laps to secure a gold medal for the host country. Russia’s 6:42.10 time represented a new Olympic record while the US finished at a time of 6:42.371. China overcame the early fall to earn the bronze. 

For Russia's An, Friday's team win marks his third gold medal at the Sochi Olympics and his record-tying eighth career medal, overall. It was An's second gold medal in about an hour as he also took first in the 500m individual on Friday. His six career golds are more than any other speedskater in history.

"This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi," An told Reuters. 

An's story is unique, in that he competed for South Korea in 2006 (and won three golds in Turin) under the name Ahn Hyun-soo. Curiously, he was left off the 2010 team, and became a Russian citizen in the fallout from that slight. In contrast to An's success, South Korea hasn't medaled in the short track.

"I will accept it, but for me to be able to come here and achieve my goals and be with my team, that is the most meaningful thing and the rest doesn't matter," he told Reuters. 

The US team was composed of Celski, Eddy Alvarez, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone. The US's short track team had been shut out in the first seven events, but Friday's result ends that drought. 

For Celski, intially a favorite to win multiple individual medals in Sochi and become the face of American speedskating (much like Shani Davis), a team-silver will have to suffice. 

While the US's speedskating team significantly underwhelmed, the short track silver medal ensures the team won't leave Russia empty-handed. 

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