Hwang Dae-heon of South Korea celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men`s 1,500m short track speed skating race at the Beijing Winter Olympics at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)
Hwang Dae-heon couldn't have imagined a worse start to Beijing 2022, his second Winter Olympics.
Last Saturday at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, the South Korean short track speed skater and his mixed relay team crashed out of the quarterfinals. Two days later, Hwang, along with a teammate Lee June-seo, were sent packing from the semifinals of the men's 1,000m on what many angry South Korean officials and fans believe were unfair officiating decisions.
Then on Wednesday, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist in the 500m finally found what he had been looking for: his first career gold medal.
Hwang emerged victorious in the men's 1,500m after a chaotic final that featured a record 10 skaters. At 2:09.219, Hwang defeated Steven Dubois of Canada by 0.035 second.
He moved from the middle of the pack into the lead with nine laps to go in the 13 1/2-lap race and never had another skater in front of him the rest of the way.
Hwang had said after Tuesday's training session he was moving on from Monday's debacle and that he was going to take whatever lessons he could from the experience.
Hwang said his focus was on eating well and getting proper rest so he could stay ready for his upcoming races.
And he showed Wednesday just how ready he was.
The day began with the quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals and then the finals. And in each of his races, Hwang relied on his superior speed to overtake skaters on the outside corner, rather than attempting any moves on the inside and risking drawing penalties, or exposing himself to more controversial decisions.
The highlight was clearly the push he made in the final. Hwang kicked into another gear with stunning ease, and with still plenty of race left, Hwang held off Dubois and the bronze medalist, Semen Elistratov of the Russian Olympic Committee.
As crowded as the ice was, it was a fairly clean race. No one was penalized, and Hwang saw to it that his third race in Beijing would bring him plenty of charm. (Yonhap)