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S. Korea picks up 2 short track titles

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Published : 2017-02-20 20:26
Updated : 2017-02-20 20:37

SAPPORO (Yonhap) -- South Korea claimed both of the two gold medals up for grabs in short track speed skating at the Asian Winter Games here Monday.

Two-time reigning world overall champion Choi Min-jeong captured the women's 1,500m title over teammate Shim Suk-hee at Makomanai Indoor Ice Rink. Choi finished her race in 2:29.416, barely ahead of Shim's 2:29.569. Guo Yihan of China took the bronze in 2:30.017.

Moments after the women's race, Park Se-yeong won the men's 1,500m gold medal, while another South Korea, Lee Jung-su, took the bronze.

Park came in 2:34.056, with Wu Daijing of China finishing second in 2:34.265. Lee was another 0.91 second back.

South Korean short track speed skater Choi Min-jeong (left) skates in the women's 1,500m final at the Asian Winter Gamaes at Makomanai Indoor Ice Rink in Sapporo, Japan, on Feb. 20, 2017. (Yonhap)

This was the first day of the short track competition in Sapporo, and South Korea, which arrived in Japan as the all-time leader with 25 gold medals at seven Winter Asiads, looks primed for yet another dominant campaign.

Both winners were somewhat of a surprise. Though Choi is a world-class skater in most distances, her main event is the 1,000m, and Shim is the current world No. 1 in the 1,500m, with four victories during the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup Short Track season. Park couldn't even compete at the World Cups because of collarbone and ankle injuries, and Lee has actually been the best South Korean in the distance, with two World Cup victories putting him at world No. 2.

"Winning gold in my first international race of the season feels like a dream," said Park, whose older sister, Park Seung-hi, is competing in speed skating at these Asian Games. "After breaking my collarbone last year, I wanted to speed up the treatment so that I could compete at the Asian Games. And to hear our national anthem here made me feel so proud. I'd love to hear it again at this rink.

These victories also came on the heels of a controversy surrounding on-ice training time for South Korea ahead of the competition.

The South Korean skaters were only assigned 70 minutes of training at Makomania over Saturday and Sunday. They arrived here Thursday night, and settled for some off-ice workouts before taking the ice for the first time Saturday.

Some skaters expressed concerns that they wouldn't have nearly enough time to figure out the nooks and crannies of the rink they would see for the first time, and that they might have to do that on the fly during the actual competitions.

But whatever worries that the skaters might have harbored simply evaporated with the two gold medals on Day 1.

South Korea will look to pad its medal tally Tuesday in the men's and women's 500m.