Park Ji Won won the 1000m as Korea's men swept the individual events © International Skating Union
Korea’s all-conquering men’s team picked up two more gold medals at the Energieverbund Arena on Sunday to seal a whitewash of the individual men’s events at the ISU Short Track speed skating World Cup in Dresden, Germany.
The world’s dominant team produced a sublime display of race craft as first Lim Hyo Jun and then Park Ji Won pounced in the closing stages to win the 500m and 1000m golds respectively. Korea’s weekend whitewash is the first of the World Cup season.
“We came here believing we were going to win,” Lim said. “We trust each other and it feels so good because so many of our team have won.”
The 1500m Olympic champion finished just ahead of compatriot Hwang Dae Heon, who won the opening 1000m final on Saturday. In total the Korean men claimed seven out of the 12 individual medals on offer in Dresden.
“There is no secret to it, we just train so hard,” Lim said.
Canada’s Cedrik Blais admitted he feels “lucky just to race” against the Koreans. However, the 22-year-old did enough to secure the 500m bronze in his first ever World Cup final.
“I was not expecting to do that,” Blais said. “At first it was very intimidating for me to go on to the ice with a number three, four and seven (world rankings) when I am 124, but I just had to remember that I had got to the final. Then I could just race for myself.”
Lim Hyo Jun (KOR) sealed 500m gold by a margin of just 0.029 seconds © International Skating Union
Israel’s Vladislav Bykanov took a similar attitude into the 1000m final, reminding himself that it is “really fun to race against” the Koreans and “even better if you can beat them”.
The 29-year-old did not quite manage that, but in a dramatic race he proved himself to be a medal contender for next month's World Championship in Bulgaria. Bykanov held his position at the front throughout but was powerless to stop Korea’s Park from bursting past with a lap to go.
“I always like racing here in Dresden,” said the silver medallist. “I was expecting a lot here because this ice is good for bigger, heavier guys like me and (Sebastien) Lepape (the Frenchman who finished third).
“The grip on this ice is amazing. It feels like you can do whatever you want. On softer ice heavier guys (like us) break it a bit more and you get less grip.”
Hungary’s Shaolin Sandor Liu made a mistake in the early part of the final, capping a disappointing weekend for the Olympic 5000m relay champion who left Dresden with just a bronze medal from the relay.
The weekend’s action ended with a hugely entertaining men’s 5000m relay featuring falls, penalties and even a headfirst dive for the line. The gold medal eventually went to Canada, but it was far from a smooth ride.
China’s Ren Ziwei (L) dived for the line in a dramatic finish to the men's 5000m relay final © International Skating Union
“Half a lap before the end I saw him (China’s final skater Ren Ziwei) on the outside so I knew he was really close. I tried to be really fast on the exit of the last corner to get to the line and then I just saw his head come over and I thought, ‘Oh, he has gone over now’.”
Ren did indeed fall and to add insult to the bruises, China were later disqualified, with Japan promoted to the silver medal position and Hungary taking bronze.
Battle will resume in Torino, Italy with the concluding leg of the 2018/19 World Cup season next weekend.