Wu Dajing’s (CHN) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
From Wu Dajing’s (CHN) astonishing world-record performance at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics to Steven Bradbury (AUS) winning Olympic gold as the last man standing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Short Track Speed Skating has drawn up plenty of epic moments which have captivated fans and skaters across the world.
We asked a range of skaters – ranging from established veterans of the sport to rookies in their first season on the World Cup circuit – for their favorite moments in Short Track history. Here are the eight they picked out.
- Wu stuns the world
Wu Dajing’s (CHN) at the Winter Olympic Games 2018©Getty Images
Wu Dajing arrived in the Republic of Korea as the favorite for 500m gold at PyeongChang 2018 but it’s easy to forget that at the time there were still some question marks over his mental strength on the big occasion. Just a year earlier, he’d been favorite to win World Championship gold in Rotterdam, but could claim only silver behind Sjinkie Knegt (NED).
In PyeongChang, however, Wu blew any such doubts out of the water with one of the most remarkable performances the sport has ever seen, shattering the world record that he’d set earlier the same day to win gold in 39.584 seconds. Among the onlookers that day was an astonished Elise Christie (GBR).
Elise Christie (GBR) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Hungary 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
“For me, I would think most people’s favorite moment has to be Wu at the Olympics,” Christie says. “We’d known he’d been a good skater for so long but he just skated away from everyone. He broke the world record by miles, it wasn’t even like a tenth or something. No one could touch him. It was a real ‘wow’ moment. It’s not often in Short Track that people shock with their performances but you saw that, and it was just like, ‘Holy moly, that’s insane’. And he’s just done it again in Salt Lake City (Wu skated 39.505s in the World Cup event). I don’t understand how he’s still getting faster.”
- An rules supreme in Turin
Ahn Hyun-Soo(KOR) Lee Ho-Suk ((KOR) and Apollo Ohno(USA) at the Winter Olympic Games 20016©AFP
Viktor An (RUS) is often described as the greatest skater in Short Track history but when he arrived in Turin for the 2006 Winter Olympics he was under considerable pressure. After disappointing Games in Salt Lake City four years earlier, in which he’d crashed during the 1000m final to return home without a medal, An (then competing for the Republic of Korea as Ahn Hyeon-su) had a point to prove.
He did so in sensational fashion, dominating the Games like no skater before and winning gold in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m Relay, as well as a bronze in the 500m.
“It was just mesmerizing to watch him race because he always seemed like he was in total control,” Thomas Hong (USA) remembers. “It felt like, as a skater, he was the most complete. He had great technique and a finesse on the ice but at the same time he was explosive and could make passes almost at will.
Thomas Hong (USA) at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)
“He could lead a race if he needed to and he could wait until the very end to make moves. I was only eight or nine at the time but I vividly remember that 5000m Relay final in Turin. The Koreans were second until the very last lap and then, out of nowhere, An caught a gap and overtook the Canadian team to win his third gold.”
It’s a moment which also sticks in the mind of Csaba Burjan (HUN), who won 5000m Relay gold as part of the Hungarian team in PyeongChang twelve years later.
Shaolin Sandor Liu and Csaba Burján(HUN) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Canada 2018©Intermational Skating Union (ISU)
“I was not skating at a high level at the time back then but I loved watching the sport,” Burjan remembers. “That Relay final was incredible. I remember An not only passed the Canadian guy on the outside in the final two laps but he was also lapping a Chinese skater at the same time, so he only had the tiniest of gaps to squeeze through. It’s still the best pass I’ve ever seen.”
- Boutin and St-Gelais enjoy podium glory
Kim Boutin (CAN) and Marianne St-Gelais (CAN) had been teammates and friends for many years but, with fierce competition from the likes of Christie, Arianna Fontana (ITA), and Choi Min-Jeong (KOR) among others, completing a Canadian ‘one-two’ at a World Cup race still eluded them as the 2017-2018 World Cup circuit got underway.
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•Ce podium, que je partage avec ma petite Gonzy, est le fruit d'une superbe complicité et d'une volonté à nous voir performer. Les P'TITS GARS, ce doublé c'est grâce à vous. Continuez d'être exigeants et de nous faire voir la victoire dans vos yeux✨ • This podium, which I share with my little Gonzy, is the fruit of a superb complicity and a will to see us perform. P'TITS GARS, this double is thanks to you. Continue to be demanding and make us see victory in your eyes✨ #oneteamonedream #teamcanada #wcshorttrack #ptitsgars #gold #silver
However, at the Dordrecht World Cup in October 2017, Boutin and St-Gelais finally got to celebrate on the top two steps of the podium. St-Gelais claimed gold in the 500m and Boutin took silver, a moment which delighted Courtney Lee Sarault (CAN) as she watched the race unfold on her laptop back home.
Courtney Lee Sarault (CAN) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Canada 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
“It was really cute to watch them celebrate together,” says Sarault, who made her debut on the World Cup circuit this year. “It was really special watching that. As a skater, I know those moments kind of mean almost more because it’s usually such an individual sport, but you get to share that little bit of happiness with someone else, and you know just how hard they work every day. Maybe Ally (Alyson Charles) and I will be able to have a moment like that one day.”
- Christie tops the world in Rotterdam
Elise Christie (GBR) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)
The 2017 World Championships in Rotterdam featured Elise Christie at her devastating best as she dominated the Ladies’ races, winning 1000m, 1500m and Overall gold. In subsequent interviews, Christie has repeatedly said that winning the Overall gold was the ultimate achievement of her career, and even winning an Olympic title could not top it.
It was a moment which equally thrilled a young Polish sprinter by the name of Natalia Maliszewska.
Natalia Maliszewska (POL) at ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in USA 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
“Elise has always been one of my heroes,” says Maliszewska, who went on to become the first Polish woman to win a World Championship medal in Montreal earlier this year. “I feel that watching her skate has made me a better athlete so her winning that Overall World gold is my favorite moment of all. It was amazing and pretty overwhelming to watch because it was my first World Championships ever as a skater, and she was so, so happy and smiling everywhere.”
- Tempers boil over in Dresden
Victor An (RUS) and Sjinkie Knegt (NED)at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Germany 2014©Getty Images
Viktor An and Sjinkie Knegt have had many battles over the years but for the wider sporting public their most memorable duel came in the final of the 5000m Relay at the Dresden European Championships in 2014.
But as Belgian skater Stijn Desmet recalls, it was notable not just for the way An glided past his rival in the final two laps but Knegt’s furious reaction afterwards, one which ultimately led to the Dutch team being disqualified and stripped of their medals.
“That’s one I’ll always remember,” Desmet laughed. “It was classic An, classic Sjinkie. I don’t think Sjinkie would let it get to him so much any more, but back then it did and losing really wound him up. He’s an emotional guy so if things are good, he’s very happy, and when it goes bad, he gets really angry. He just gets very passionate in the heat of the moment. But the skating was great, too. It’s really tough to maintain speed on the last lap of a relay because the ice is so worn by then but great skaters like Sjinkie and An manage to still keep going so fast which is insane.”
- Bradbury stays on his feet to win Olympic gold
Steven Bradbury’s (AUS) at the Winter Olympic Games 2002©Getty Images
Steven Bradbury’s (AUS) gold at Salt Lake City 2002 has gone down in folklore as one of the ultimate underdog sporting triumphs. As one of the oldest athletes in the competition, at 28, Bradbury knew he could not match his rivals for raw speed so opted to wait behind them and hope they crashed.
Unbelievably, with Bradbury way off the pace in his semi-final and final, mass pile-ups occurred in both races as his rivals jostled for first place. In the final, it meant Bradbury could claim one of the most unlikely golds in sporting history.
Vladislav Bykanov (ISR) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
“It was just such an incredible thing to happen,” remembers Israeli skater Vladislav Bykanov. “I was only a kid at the time, watching on TV, but it was the story of the Games. My favorite part about it was all the other skaters who’d crashed then jumping to their feet to try and get to the line after him, to get a medal. It was so crazy to watch.”
- Dutch Men’s Relay team make history in Sochi
Before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Netherlands had never made the final of the Men’s 5000m Relay but, inspired by Knegt – who also claimed the country’s first Olympic medal in Short Track Speed Skating at those Games – they topped their semi-final, eventually finishing a very creditable fourth.
Suzanne Schulting (NED) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Canada 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
The result paved for the way for growing Dutch dominance in Short Track and inspired a teenage Suzanne Schulting (NED) who would go on to win Winter Olympics gold in the Ladies’ 1000m in PyeongChang four years later.
“I was at school with a few friends and we were watching television in our lunch break,” Schulting remembers. “The Dutch boys made it to the A final and we were all screaming so hard that the whole school was like, ‘What is going on? Why are they screaming?’ But for me it was super cool, and then four years later I won gold. So I think that’s one of the moments which is most fresh in my memory. It was then that I (thought that) I want to skate a final at the Olympics in four years as well.”
- Canada thrill home fans in Vancouver
Samuel Girard, Charles Hamelin, Charle Cournoyer and Pascal Dion(CAN) at the Winter Olympic Games 2018©AFP
Racing in a country where winter sports reign supreme, the Canadian Short Track team were under heavy pressure to deliver medals at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. They ultimately finished third in the Short Track medal table, thanks largely to Charles Hamelin (CAN) who produced a brilliant performance in the 500m before inspiring the 5000m Relay team to a thrilling gold, pipping Rep. Korea and the USA on a frenzied final night of action at the Pacific Coliseum.
“That was kind of my first-ever memory of the Olympics,” remembers Samuel Girard (CAN) who won 1000m gold eight years later in PyeongChang. “I was watching it, just thinking, ‘Maybe I could do the Olympics one day and perform like that in front of my own crowd. For them to win the Relay in Canada was really special because, while the individual distances are nice, in the Relay, everything has to be perfect. The chemistry between the boys is really important and with all the passes, all the skaters on (at) the same time, the crowd gets really into it which brings it to another level.
“And then in Montreal, for the World Championships earlier this year, I got to win a silver in the 5000m Relay in front of my family and Canadian fans, which is the closest I’ve come so far to taking this memory full circle.”