|Choi Min-jeong celebrates her victory. (Yonhap)|
|Choi Min-jeong (center) poses with silver medalist Li Jinyu (left) and bronze medalist Kim Boutin of Canada at the medal-awarding ceremony in Gangneung Ice Arena on Saturday. (Yonhap)|
It is the first time in 12 years that South Korea known as powerhouse of the short-track speed skating has earned the gold in the 1,500 meter competition.
Choi crossed the finish line as the fastest skater among the seven rivals in the competition at 2:24.948, well ahead of China's Li Jinyu and Kim Boutin of Canada. Kim Alang of South Korea also joined the final race, but failed to win a medal.
"I didn't win this gold medal alone," Yonhap News quoted Choi as saying in a TV interview afterward. "The people cheered me on. The national team and our national skating federation gave all athletes so much support and allowed us to succeed."
Choi started the 14-lap race at the back of the pack but made her move on the outside with four laps to go, Yonhap reported. With a couple of laps left, Choi was so far ahead of the rest that everyone else was skating for second place.
But the South Korean star said she never let her guard down.
"This is a sport where so much can happen," Choi said, according to Yonhap. "I didn't know when I might fall down, and so I wasn't sure I was going to win the gold until I crossed the finish line."
Now, all eyes of Koreans will be on the women's 3,000m relay finals slated for next Tuesday and the 1,000m finals on Thursday for a chance to witness Choi's successful completion of her goal.
In the men's 1,000 meter final held after the women's race at Gangneung Ice Arena, South Korea's Seo Yi-ra garnered the bronze medal. The gold medal went to Samuel Girard of Canada.