With the Beijing Winter Olympics just over two years away, China’s skaters are building into a growing force in Short Track with the final day’s action at the ISU World Cup in Shanghai offering a window into the sort of dominance home ice can give them.
China's Kexin Fan acknowledges the cheers for her World Cup Short Track victory in Shanghai 2019 © International Skating Union (ISU)
Fan Kexin started the rush to victory, clinching China’s first gold medal of the weekend in a dramatic Ladies' 500m (2) race. Poland’s Natalia Maliszewska seemed to have the win in her grasp before crashing in the final lap to allow the Chinese sprinter to sneak through and clinch her first individual World Cup title for more than three years.
Fan’s compatriot Qu Chunyu was right there to take bronze, with the Netherland’s Yara van Kerkhof winning silver. It is Chunyu’s second medal of the season, after winning 500m silver in Salt Lake City, and she said her success this year has been driven by a particularly intense pre-season training camp, which has left her an improved and stronger skater.
“Since the camp, I can clearly feel that I’m more powerful,” she said. “This season I really feel that I’m physically stronger and that has given me a lot more confidence in all the competitions.”
Fan’s success was followed by Han Tianyu who edged out Hungary’s Shaoang Liu in a desperately tight 1000m race, which took a photo finish to separate the skaters on the finish line. In-form Korean Park Ji Won – who won both 1000m and 1500m gold in Nagoya - had to settle for bronze.
“I was a bit lucky,” Tianyu said. “There were a few incidents in the race, but I was trying to be proactive, and I grasped my opportunity to get the gold.”
Having also won silver in the men’s 1500m on Saturday, it has been a highly successful weekend for Tianyu, marking an impressive return to form after taking a year off from skating to get married and start a family.
“Coming back to training last summer was so hard because I could really feel the differences physically between me and my team-mates,” he said. “I was so weak. But these medals are a great recognition for all the hard work I put in to try and rebuild my strength, and now that’s been proven in competition.”
Derrick Campbell, the former head coach of the Canadian men’s Short Track team, who is working with the Chinese team in the lead-up to Beijing 2022, declared he was delighted with his skaters’ performances this weekend.
“We believe in our team, and we believe whenever we field a skater in any distance, we’ve got a chance at gold,” he said. “I think it’s always an advantage when you have the home crowd behind you, it’s a very powerful thing that can lift you. The crowd this weekend didn’t disappoint, they were great. Lots of energy, completely behind the team and we felt it.”
Schulting on track to return to her best
Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands skates to World Cup Short Track victory in Shanghai 2019 © International Skating Union (ISU)
One skater keen to keep her momentum going is the Netherland’s Olympic and World 1000m champion Suzanne Schulting. Last season the Dutch star was virtually unbeatable over Short Track’s middle distance, but the 22-year-old’s invincible aura has been dented slightly this season.
In Shanghai, however, she showed she still has her trademark power and timing, which she used to excellent affect to win the Ladies' 1000m title. She came with a late surge to pip Korea’s Seo Whi Min. Canada’s Kim Boutin, who beat Schulting to 500m gold on Day Two in Shanghai, had to settle for bronze.
“Three or four laps before the end I was in third position,” Schulting said. “I thought first pass Kim, and then see what I can do with the Korean, but her lines were really good and tight. I tried to go past her on the outside but she followed me, so it came to the last corner and I was thinking, ‘I just have to give everything to get her on the finish line’. It was really tight, but I’m happy I managed it.”
Having been so successful over the past two seasons, Schulting acknowledged that her rivals are gunning for her over her favorite distance. “Last season was incredible,” she said. “I think I won every 1000m final I skated, and of course I wanted to do the same this year but I knew it was going to be really, really hard because the field is getting stronger, the others are looking at you, and they want to beat you. I’m really aware of that so that makes me even happier when I win gold. Everyone was really strong this weekend.”
Schulting leaves Shanghai with two golds – having already been part of the Netherlands’ successful 2000m Mixed Relay team on Day Two – but she missed out on a third as a jubilant Canadian side won the Ladies' 3000m Relay, ahead of the Netherlands and USA.
Hungary star Liu doubles up
Hungary's Shaolin Liu celebrates his second gold medal from the World Cup Short Track in Shanghai flanked by Korea's Lee June Seo and Steven Dubois of Canada. 2019 © International Skating Union (ISU)
On the men’s side, a slightly bemused Shaolin Liu finds himself flying back to Hungary with two golds, despite not being in his best shape, after winning the Men’s 500m for the second time this weekend on Sunday.
“I’m super happy,” he said, after winning gold ahead of Korea’s Lee June Seo, and Canada’s Steven Dubois. “I didn’t expect to win, I just wanted to get a medal. I was calm in the race, motivated to skate good and the outcome was super surprising. I didn’t even think about the gold medal when I was going up to the race. I think this is actually the first time Hungary has got two gold medals at the same World Cup with the same skater over two distances.”
Hungary’s Liu brothers are half-Chinese, courtesy of their father, and have been almost as popular in Shanghai as the Chinese skating team. They delighted their fans in Shanghai by picking up a final medal in the Men’s 5000m Relay. The strong Russian team, featuring the legendary Victor An, took gold in the relay with Hungary claiming silver, and Korea taking bronze.
Where to watch and follow the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2019/20
Viewers will be able to watch via their national broadcaster/channel and for countries where there are no broadcasters, the ISU will offer a live stream on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel. You will find the full list in the Where to watch news here.
Subscribe to the ISU Newsletter to receive the latest information and the “Where to Watch” news. You can also subscribe to the Skating ISU YouTube Channel to receive notifications when live streams start or new videos are published.
Highlights, clips, interviews, behind the scenes:
YouTube: ISU Skating
Follow the conversation with #ShortTrackSkating.
For further information on ISU Short Track Speed Skating visit: https://www.isu.org/short-track.
ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating Series events 2019/20: