Sports

NO CRASH, GOT GOLD

China's Li Jianrou steered clear of a three-skater pile-up to sprint to gold in the women's 500m short track at the Winter Olympics yesterday.

Two-time defending champion Wang Meng missed the Games after breaking her ankle but Li (inset) ensured the title stayed in Chinese hands for a fourth straight Olympics after her three rivals crashed on the first lap of the 4.5-lap final.

The 27-year-old coasted home in 45.263sec to finish nearly six seconds ahead of Italy's Arianna Fontana, the bronze medallist from Vancouver in 2010, who took silver in 51.250.

It was China's first gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Despite an initial false start, Park Seung Hi of South Korea took bronze in 54.207.

It was the third Olympic bronze for Park, 21, after medals in the 1,000m and 1,500m in Vancouver.

"I believe it's a miracle," said five-time world champion Li, who is competing at her first Olympics.

"I always believe in myself. I'm lucky to get this gold medal."

Officials ruled that Britain's Elise Christie caused the crash, and she was disqualified minutes after the race.

China's Liu Qiuhong was fourth.

Pre-race favourite Fan Kexin, a two-time world champion over the distance, failed to qualify for the final, along with Canada's Marianne St-Gelais, the 2010 runner-up.

Meanwhile, the United States kicked off their quest for the men's ice hockey gold medal with a 7-1 rout of Slovakia on Thursday.

The Americans, looking to improve on their silver from the 2010 Games, scored six goals in the second period to snuff out any hopes Slovakia had of pulling off an upset.

Slovakia, who made an unlikely run to the bronze-medal game in 2010, made a decent start and drew even at 1-1 with a goal 24 seconds into the second period.

However, they were unable to keep pace with the Americans, who responded with a goal a minute later before pulling away to complete the rout ahead of the intermission.

Russia beat feisty Slovenia 5-2 to keep the host country's gold medal dreams on track.

- Reuters.

WINTER OLYMPICS