Dramatic end to short track relay leaves Canadian women in disbelief — and off podium
Penalty means Canada — for the 1st time ever — won't win a medal in the event
By Pete Evans, CBC Sports
The Canadian women's short track speed skating team was dramatically eliminated in the medal race on Tuesday after being penalized — despite being tripped up by the eventual gold medal winners.
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The quartet of Valerie Maltais, Kasandra Bradette, Kim Boutin and Marianne St-Gelais were among the leaders in the hectic, 3,000-metre race against Italy, South Korea and China.
Then, with three laps to go, leading into a changeover between teammates, Maltais was tripped up by a South Korean racer.
Maltais slid across the ice and into an Italian skater, knocking her down, too.
"It was just the end of the relay that everything happened," Italian skater Arianna Fontana said of the incident after the race. "For sure we're all going to go back and see the race because we want to understand for real what happened."
The Canadians scrambled to get back into it, but confusion reigned in the aftermath as nobody knew who crossed the line first, or whether the results would stand up.
The Canadian team watched the overhead video board intently, hoping for a ruling in their favour based on the initial trip.
Then their jaws dropped when they realized they were the ones who had been penalized — for an entirely separate incident that happened at the end of the race.
The judges determined that Boutin, who was not racing at the time and was instead circling the track in the middle portion, had briefly crossed into the field of play and in doing so, impeded the Chinese and South Korean teams as they raced to cross the finish line.
That's against the rules, so the Canadians were disqualified.
"I thought we had it," St-Gelais said after the race. "Short track is short track— sometimes it goes our way, sometimes it doesn't and tonight wasn't our turn."
But the drama wasn't over yet, as the judges determined that the Chinese team had also committed an infraction, negating their second place finish.
"I don't know why [China was disqualified]," Chinese skater Zhou Yang said. "I think there was no problem with what we did."
When the dust had settled, the two disqualifications meant that the South Koreans were awarded the gold medal, and the third-place Italians were bumped up into silver.
Then came yet another bizarre twist, as because of the two disqualifications in the four-team final, the bronze medal went to the Dutch team who didn't even compete in the same race, having failed to qualify for it.
They raced earlier in the 'B' final, where they set a world-record time of four minutes, 3.471 seconds.
That earned them the bronze, despite putting up a faster time than any team, ever.
Compared to the chaotic relay final, the qualification races in individual events earlier in the day were downright tame.
Maltais, St-Gelais and Boutin all advanced through their heats in the women's 1,000, and will move on to the quarterfinal races tomorrow.
Boutin already has bronze medals from two other distances at these Games, in the 500 and the 1,500.
On the men's side, Canada's Samuel Girard, who won gold earlier at these Games in the 1,000, easily advanced to the quarterfinal round in the 500.
His teammate and mentor Charles Hamelin, however, was not so lucky, as he was penalized and subsequently eliminated in what was the last individual race of his decorated Olympic career.
"I wanted to have better result at the end, for sure," Hamelin said after the race, "but at the same time, I cannot change the past, cannot change what happened today."