South Korean short track speed skater Lee Han-bin reached the finals in the men's 1,500 meters on Monday at the Sochi Winter Olympics, while three female short trackers reached the quarters in the 500ｍ.
Lee was the only one of three South Koreans to make it out of the semifinals at Iceberg Skating Palace, keeping South Korea's hopes alive for its first medal in Sochi.
The finals will start at 4:05 p.m. (9:05 p.m. in South Korea) on Monday.
Joining Lee in the finals will be Viktor Ahn of Russia. Born Ahn Hyun-soo in South Korea, the three-time Olympic champion at the 2006 Turin Games became a Russian citizen in 2011 and is trying to win the first Olympic short track gold medal for his adopted country.
Lee advanced to the finals under dramatic circumstances. He was paired with compatriot Sin Da-woon in the semifinal heat. Sin and Lee were skating in first and second places with three laps to go in the 13 1/2-lap race, cruising toward the finish line.
Sin then appeared to skate into a rough patch on the ice and fell without contact, and Lee, trailing closely behind, tripped up on his teammate as both crashed into the wall.
Sin and Lee finished the race with the worst times in their group, but judges awarded Lee a spot in the final on the grounds that he'd been interfered with during the race.
Park Se-young was the other South Korean in the semis, but finished third in his group. With two laps to go, he made slight contact with Viktor Ahn and lost his balance.
South Korea has been by far the most successful country in Olympic short track since it became a medal sport in 1992. Heading into Sochi, South Korea had won 19 gold medals and 37 medals overall, more than any other nation in both categories. South Korea is also the only country to have won at least one short track gold medal at every Winter Games.
The men's 1,500ｍ joined the Olympic program in 2002, and South Korean skaters won the gold in 2006 and 2010.
Also on Monday, Kim A-lang, Park Seung-hi and Shim Suk-hee reached the quarterfinals in the women's 500ｍ.
Thirty-two skaters were divided into eight groups of four, and the top two from each group booked their spots in the semifinals.
Kim finished second in the first group, while Park ranked first in the fourth group and Shim was second in the eighth group. The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will all take place on Thursday. No South Korean woman has won Olympic gold in the 500ｍ.
Wang Meng of China, who has three World Cup titles in the 500ｍ this season, is missing the Sochi Games due to a broken foot.
Later Monday, Shim and Park will team up with Cho Ha-ri and Kong Sang-jeong in the semifinals of the women's 3,000ｍ relay against Hungary, Canada and Russia, scheduled to start at 3:35 p.m. (8:35 p.m. in South Korea.)
The top two countries from the relay semifinals will advance to the finals, which will be held on Feb. 18. (Yonhap)