SOCHI, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Zhou Yang successfully defended her 1,500-meter short track speed skating title on Saturday to give China its third gold at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games while South Korean-born Victor An of Russia won his fourth career gold and became one of the greatest short trackers of all time.
Zhou, who failed to make a single Olympic-distance podium at the world championships after winning 1,500m at Vancouver, found her form when it counted most.
She finished in two minutes, 19.140 seconds, followed by Shim Suk Hee of South Korea and Arianna Fontana of Italy.
"It was a tough competition. All the races, from the heats to the final, were all difficult as I wanted to catch all the chances," said Zhou.
"I've been through a lot during the past four years. I didn't expect I could come back to the Olympic Games. I was nervous at the beginning, but after I finished, I felt so thrilled."
Zhou was near the front throughout the race, but made her first serious move with five laps remaining to step into second. She had extra speed heading into the final lap, and hit the lead to skate across the finish line first.
An, who won three gold medals for South Korea in the 2006 Turin Olympics, gave Russia its first short track Olympic gold after edging teammate Vladimir Grigorev in the 1,000m final in front of a loud and partisan crowd.
"I'm very happy, but I'm even happier because Russia managed to win both the gold and silver," An said. "I had no idea Russia was such a strong short track country. I want to try to win the relay and hope to enjoy the other competitions at these Games."
An has also won two bronze medals to his credit, including a bronze from the men's 1,500m on Monday, and is the first male short tracker to win four gold medals. He is now just two Olympic medals away from tying Apolo Anton Ohno of the United States for the short track record.
Dutchman Sjinkie Knegt won the bronze.
Sweden's Charlotte Kalla became the first athlete to win three medals at Sochi after leading her country to a surprise win in the women's 4x5km cross country relay.
Kalla hauled Sweden up from third place at the start of the final leg, beating a strong field that included red-hot favorite Norway, Finland and Germany.
Krista Lahteenmaki of Finland put in a huge effort to overtake Denise Herrmann of Germany, a World Cup leader, in the last few meters to claim the silver. Norway finished a distant fifth. The Norwegians had won all 10 of the World Cup relay races they had entered since taking gold at Vancouver 2010.
Poland was the day's biggest winner, taking two out of seven gold medals on offer. Zbigniew Brodka won the Olympic 1,500m speed skating title and Kamil Stoch claimed the men's large hill ski jumping gold, adding to his normal hill title won last Sunday.
Austrian Anna Fenninger won the women's super-G gold in a clocking of 1:25.52, ahead of Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, super-combined winner on Monday and Nicole Hosp of Austria.
Alexander Tretiakov captured Russia's second gold of the day, winning the men's skeleton. He totaled three minutes, 44.29 seconds for four races in the Sanki Sliding Center, beating Latvia's Martins Dukurs into second place. American Matt Antoine won the bronze.
In a much-anticipated ice hockey match, the United States subdued Russia in an electrifying 3-2 penalty shoot-out win.
Watched by President Vladimir Putin and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner in a match reminiscent of the "Miracle on Ice" when a U.S. side beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic final.
Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk scored twice in the 30th and 53rd minutes while Cam Fowler and Joe Pavelski scored for U.S. at the 37th and 50th minute respectively.
"My hands are a little tingling, my feet are tingling. It was pretty nerve-racking out there," Oshie said after the game.
Russian women's side also suffered a defeat, upset by Switzerland 2-0 in a battle for semifinals. They will have to face Japan in the 5th-8th place classification round on Sunday.
In the women's curling, Canada became the first team to qualify for the semifinals by beating Russia 5-3 with an unbeaten record.
After the eighth day's competition, Germany continues to lead the medal table with seven gold, three silver and two bronze medals, followed by Switzerland on 5-1-1. Russia rose to third with 4-6-5.
China stands ninth on 3-2-0.
Twenty-six countries and regions have joined the medal standings, with 18 having struck gold.