Marianne St-Gelais eliminated from short track 500m
Slow time in quarter-finals costs Canadian
Canadian short track speed skater Marianne St-Gelais won't get a chance to win another Olympic medal in the women's 500 metres after finishing third in her semifinal heat Thursday at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi.
St-Gelais, from Saint-Felicien, Que., finished with a time of 44.069 seconds. She won silver in the same event four years ago in Vancouver.
South Korea’s Seung-Hi Park won the heat in 43.611 and Italy's Arianna Fontana also qualified with a time of 43.624.
St-Gelais's undoing happened in the earlier quarter-final round. She finished with the slowest time of the eight qualifying skaters, forcing the 23-year-old to start on the outside of her semifinal heat.
After getting off to a slow start, St-Gelais couldn’t get around Fontana or Park at the first corner.
Although she tried to make up ground, the Canadian had no room to manoeuvre and ran out of time in the end.
“I had some opportunity to do passes, but I was kind of catching up so I missed some opportunities in the race,” an emotional St-Gelais told CBC. “Yes I’m crying but honestly it was a good race. I’m proud and I’m looking forward to the other distances.”
Failing to reach the final is a big disappointment for St-Gelais, who some considered a challenger for gold after it was revealed that China's powerhouse Meng Weng would miss the Sochi Olympics with an injury.
Another surprising development took place in the other semifinal. Two-time world champion and Olympic favourite Fan Kexin also failed to reach the final when she crashed in her heat.
Chaos ensued in the women's final. While China's Li Jianrou won gold in 45.263 seconds, the other three remaining skaters crashed. First, Elise Christie of Great Britain made contact with Fontana, forcing both skaters to go down on the second lap. Park then fell on her own.
By the time the race ended, Christie was disqualified after crossing the line in second, leaving Fontana with silver and Park the bronze.
"It's a miracle," an ecstatic Li told reporters. "I always believe in myself, I skated like I do in my daily training. I'm lucky to get this gold medal."
Meanwhile, St-Gelais finish seventh overall.
Jessica Hewitt of Kamloops, B.C., and Valerie Maltais of La Baie, Que., didn't advance following their quarter-final heat.
(With files from Reuters)