|Li Jianrou claimed China's first gold medal in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Thursday as she won the women's 500m short track speed skating final which saw the other three skaters crash at the beginning. (Xinhua)
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SOCHI, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- China, with its most decorated winter Olympian Wang Meng left home nursing injury, got lucky on Thursday as Li Jianrou secured the Olympic title in the women's 500m short track speed skating after all other three finalists stumbled in front of her.
The 27-year-old started from the most outside lane, only to be left behind soon, before pace-setter Park Seung-Hi of South Korea was caught in a clash between British Elise Christie and Italian Arianna Fontana at the first curve.
Li, the 2012 world champion over 1,500m, won the title unopposed with a time of 45.263 seconds, a far cry from the Olympic record of 42.985 held by her injured teammate Wang Meng.
Fontana, the bronze medalist in 2010, took the silver in 51.250 after recovering from the fall, as Park had to settle for the bronze in 54.207.
Christie was handed a penalty for barring fellow competitors on purpose during the race.
The dramatic final took place in the wake of an equally stunning semifinal where China's favorite Fan Kexin, twice world champion, crashed and slowed down Li and another teammate Liu Qiuhong, letting Christie cross line first.
The 20-year-old Fan, ranked second in the world after Wang Meng, caught her left blade and stumbled out in the first lap.
Before the women's 500m final, China's former world bronze medalist Liang Wenhao was ousted from the men's 1,000m while competing against world No. 1 Charles Hamelin in a four-man heat.
Liang, the 21-year-old second-time Olympian, was overtaken by Hamelin with five laps to go and re-claimed the lead with three laps remaining, but lost his position at the next curve.
The other two Chinese, Han Tianyu and Wu Dajing, both made it through to the 1,000m quarters. Han, the new silver medalist in the 1,500m, clocked 1:26.530 and Wu was the No. 1 qualifier from his group with a time of 1:24.950.
Also on Thursday afternoon, China qualified for the men's 5,000m relay final scheduled for Feb. 18.
Twice world champion Fan falls at women's 500m short track semis
SOCHI, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- China's job of defending the women's 500m short track speedskating title at the Sochi Winter Games suffered a major blow here on Thursday as twice world champion Fan Kexin lost her semifinals surprisingly to an unforced error.
With all three Chinese short trackers racing the same group of four in the semifinals, the 20-year-old world No. 2 stepped on a ice bug just two laps after start and stumbled out, hardly in the way of teammate Liu Qiuhong before she rushed into the protecting wall aound the rink. Full story