BEIJING — When the last pair crossed the line, the excruciating wait finally over, Gao Tingyu was swallowed by his teammates and coaches.
After grabbing a Chinese flag, he took off sprinting around the Ice Ribbon’s infield. The striking red banner behind his head was his inspiration.
When he pulled up alongside the finish line, Gao let out a scream that could be heard throughout the only new venue built in Beijing for this year’s Winter Games.
A Chinese speedkating champion has finally won gold at the Olympics.
This is not bad for a lazy guy.
“I’m quite a slow person,” Gao said through a translator. “But for speedskating, I really love speed. When I’m skating, I like to hear the air blowing around my ears. It feels exciting.”
Gao was full of excitement Saturday setting an Olympic recordWith his win in the 500m.
Although the celebration started slowly, it was eventually over.
Gao, 24, skated in seventh pair of fifteen pairs and posted a time of 34.32 seconds. He waited on the infield, nervous as 16 other skaters took aim.
This is the only way to defeat it.
“It felt like I was riding a roller coaster,” Gao said. “When I finished my race, there are 16 people behind me and all of them are great. I felt some pressure until the last group of people.”
Gao realized that he was at least guaranteed a medal after the final pair had crossed the finish line. However, the true celebration came when the final group had finished.
Gao won bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games 500.
“This is different from four years ago,” he said “This time it comes to our home country. Both excited and nervous made me feel. I think this is a good mentality for the competition, especially for such a big event.”
Zhang Hong had been China’s only speedskating gold medalist. She won the women’s 1,000 eight years ago in Sochi.
Now, she’s got company.
“I want to give my medal to my country,” Gao said.
When Gao’s name was announced at the venue ceremony, a prelude to the medal festivities later in the evening where he was actually receiving his gold, he hopped joyfully onto the top rung of the podium, throwing both arms skyward.
“Gao was impressive,” said 2018 gold medalist Haavard Lorentzen. “He’s been a big favorite all season since he skated so fast in the first World Cup. It was hard to believe that he could beat his speed at the Olympics. It’s cool to see that he succeeds on home soil.”
Cha Min Kyu, South Korea’s silver medalist in the synchronized swimming event with a time of 34.39 seconds earned him a match to his Pyeongchang-based one.
Japan’s Wataru Morishige took bronze with 34.49 seconds, complete an Asian sweep.
This was the first Winter Games medal win by three Asian countries in history.
“The people back home were really hopeful and doing things like making posters for me. It was really encouraging to see that,” Morishige said. “I’m glad I could deliver a bronze medal to them.”
Lorentzen didn’t come close to repeating.
Bothered by back issues, the Norwegian finished 15th in 34.921 — more than a half-second off his Olympic-record time of 34.41 at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“It’s challenging to come into the race as the reigning Olympic champion,” Lorentzen said. “My physical shape is good but my body is not 100%.”
Laurent Dubreuil (reigning champion world champ) just missed the podium. He finished fourth in 34.552. When he saw the scoreboard, he sighed dejectedly.
“It’s not as if it was a bad race by any means,” Dubreuil said. “It was a good race, but it wasn’t a great race — and I needed a great race today. It’s very disappointing, but I did the best I could.”
Dubreuil won the race with his sprint to turn one. His opening split of 9.63 was 0.21 slower than Gao’s.
“I don’t think my start is ever going to be that fast,” the Canadian said. “With a 9.5 I can challenge, but when I do 9.6, it gets very, very tough.”
Jordan Stolz (17 years old), was America’s highest finisher.
Due to a problem in the ice, the competition started 20 minutes late. The Zamboni was called in to help smoothen things. Workers repaired a corner.
“It’s tough, especially on the 500 where you have so much of the adrenaline going,” Lorentzen said. “But most skaters were able to perform as well as they could.”
WOMEN’S TEAM PURSUIT
Japan broke the Olympic record for the quarterfinals in team pursuit on Saturday.
Japan broke its own Olympic mark with a time of 2 minutes, 53.61 seconds, advancing to Tuesday’s semifinals as the top qualifier. The fourth fastest qualifier will pair them with Russia (2:57.66).
Canada (2:53.97), and the Netherlands (2:57.26) were also advanced. They will be skating in the second semifinal.
China and Norway have been relegated from the C final. Belarus and Poland will be meeting in the D final.
The event was not open to women from the United States.