Hyun-Soo Ahn (KOR), Ho-Suk Lee (KOR) and Apolo Anton Ohno (USA) at the Winter Olympic Games 2006©Getty Images
Short Track Speed Skating’s appeal is built on battles between fiercely competitive, difficult-to-separate racers. We explore the sport’s most tumultuous tussles – and who came out on top.
Apolo Anton Ohno (USA) and Ahn Hyun-Soo (KOR) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (KOR) 2005©AFP
Ohno took on Short Track Speed Skating’s most dominant nation, the Republic of Korea, during his storied career – and quite often won. Matters first heated up at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Games, when the US skater defeated Ahn and Kim in the 1000m and 1500m finals respectively. The latter duel was controversial, as Kim was disqualified for blocking Ohno. At the Torino 2006 Games, Ahn struck back, grabbing 1000m gold ahead of his rival – but Ohno countered by winning the 500m. And it was Ohno who finally broke Ahn’s five-year deadlock on the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships overall title, as he sped to victory on Korean ice in 2008.
Chun Lee-Kyung (KOR), Yang Yang (CHN) and Won Hye-Kung (KOR) at the Winter Olympic Games 1998©AFP
A clash so intense that the pair could hardly be separated. Republic of Korea’s Chun was the dominant racer of the mid-1990s, winning two Olympic golds at Lillehammer 1994 (1000m and 3000m Relay), then the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in 1995 and 1996. In ’97, however, China’s Yang Yang emerged – and for the first time in the Ladies’ ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, two racers scored the same points and stood on top of the podium together. Yang would go on to dominate the Worlds, winning the overall title six times consecutively, but Chun got the upper hand on the biggest stage, at Nagano 1998. The Korean seized Olympic 1000m and 3000m Relay gold again – the ‘double double’ – although it took a photo finish, inevitably with Yang, to win the solo race.
Guillaume Bastille, Chalres Hamelin, François Hamelin, Oliver Jean, François-Louis Temblay (CAN) at the Winter Olympic Games 2010©Getty Images
A friendly sibling rivalry ran through the career of Canada’s favorite Short Track Speed Skating brothers. It was actually the younger boy, Francois, who took to the ice first – urged on, aged six, by his mother who wanted him to burn off his excess energy. Charles started a year later, then aged 10 – and didn’t start winning right away, often finishing last in local races, while Francois topped the podium. Both went on to enjoy hugely successful careers: Francois regularly made podiums, while Charles eventually reigned supreme, winning one ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships title and five Olympic medals – three of them gold. “I created a monster,” admits Francois. Their greatest moment? Teaming up to win 5000m Relay gold on home ice at Vancouver 2010.
Cathy Turner (USA) and NAthalie Lambert (CAN) at the Winter Olympic Games 1994©Allsport
Daigle was an extraordinary talent. She first won ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships overall gold as a teen in 1979 – and would go on to take the title on four more occasions up to 1990. During that era she faced many other great competitors, including Canadian compatriots Cathy Turnbull and Louise Begin. But it was the late developer Lambert who finally got the better of her: at the 1991 ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Sydney, the Montreal racer, just a year younger than Daigle, took her first overall gold, aged 27. Lambert would go on to take two more titles. The pair, who are both from Quebec – Daigle hails from Sherbrooke – remained friendly: “We always challenge each other to do better,” said Daigle, who teamed up with Lambert to win the 3000m Relay at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Games.
Simon Cho (USA) and Olivier Jean (CAN) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2011©Getty Images
A rivalry that got so heated that it tipped over into dirty tricks – with USA’s Cho sabotaging Canadian Jean’s skates during the 2011 ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Team Championships. He was suspended for two years after using a blade blender on Jean’s skate, missing Sochi 2014 as a result. Cho showed true remorse afterwards, saying “it was the biggest mistake of my life”, and now coaches at a club in Maryland, USA.