HAMELIN HAMS IT UP
Canada's Charles Hamelin grabbed gold in the men's short track 1,500 metres at the Sochi Games yesterday, while home crowd favourite Viktor Ahn won bronze - Russia's first Olympic medal in the event.
Chinese teenager Han Tianyu, who admitted to being "a little nervous" at his first Olympics, took silver, with the three medallists finishing far ahead of the chasing pack.
An ecstatic Hamelin lunged over the barriers to wrap his girlfriend and teammate Marianne St-Gelais in a hug - echoing an iconic moment of the Vancouver Games when the coupled shared a kiss following Hamelin's 500m gold-medal triumph that has become a YouTube hit.
The victory was Hamelin's fourth Olympic medal and the first of a Games in which he looks competitive in another two individual distances as well as the 5,000m relay.
The Russian crowd reserved their biggest cheers for Ahn, who won four Olympic medals for South Korea at the 2006 Turin Games before switching allegiance to Russia.
Ahn stayed back in the pack of flashing blades for the first few laps of the race but sneaked up to chase Han and Hamelin into the final stretch, winning his fifth Olympic medal and taking the home nation's total to five.
American J R Celski, who won two bronze medals in Vancouver despite almost missing the Games due to a cut leg that required 66 stitches, looked in contention for the medal midway through the 13½ laps but fell back to fourth.
In the notoriously unpredictable, high-velocity sport where crashes are frequent, world champion Sin Da Woon of South Korea failed to reach the A final after losing his balance and slamming into the barriers.
Meanwhile, the United States punched their ticket to the semi-finals of the Olympic women's ice hockey competition with a routine 9-0 win over Switzerland yesterday.
Much as they did in their opening game against Finland, the second-ranked US team dominated throughout and started to run away with it when two goals in an eight-second span of the first period made it 3-0.
"It was pretty awesome to see our team came out tonight and always trying to bring the same level of play no matter who we are playing," said Amanda Kessel, who had two goals and two assists.
"We stayed to our game today and it's huge going into the next game against Canada."
Swiss goalie Florence Schelling, who made 64 saves against Canada in an opening-game loss, had another busy night as she made 44 saves against a US team who never took their foot off the pedal.
The United States will now shift their focus to tomorrow's match-up with arch-rivals Canada, which is widely expected to be a preview of the gold-medal game between the two superpowers.
"We have Canada on Wednesday and we're going to have to maintain that speed the entire game," said forward Jocelyne Lamoureux.
"We're not going to be able to take a shift off because they'll take advantage of that, they are a good team." - Reuters.