Watch for the Korean and Chinese powerhouses to turn in more stellar performances, and for the return of American favorite Apolo Anton Ohno. After the 2006 Torino Olympics, Anton Ohno will be looking to defend his Olympic gold medal in the 500m and upgrade his bronze in the 1,000m.
Who to watch
Apolo Anton Ohno, USA (see video)
You’ll recognize Anton Ohno by his bandana and signature soul patch-style facial hair – or from his previous performances in 2002 and 2006. Though Anton Ohno didn’t start speed skating until he was 12, he became the American short-track speedskating champion at the age of 17. He holds five Olympic medals from the past two Games and will be leading a strong US short track team in Vancouver.
Wang Meng, China (see video)
Widely considered the best short-track skater in the world, Meng is looking for four golds in Vancouver – a feat not unrealistic given that she won gold in all three individual Olympic events at the 2008 worlds, and nearly repeated that accomplishment last year. Hailing from the cold province of Harbin in northeastern China, Meng shares a hometown with two-time gold medalist Yang Yang.
Click here for schedule and results.
Races are held on an oval rink, roughly one-fourth the size of an outdoor running track. Individual competitions start with a total of 32 athletes competing in a series of heats. Four to six athletes race within each heat and the first two finishers in each heat advance to the next round. (see helmet cam video)
Short track speed skating developed in North America at the turn of the 20th century and quickly spread around the northern hemisphere. It was first included in the Olympic program at the 1992 Albertville, France, Games, in part of an ongoing bid to increase the global appeal of the Winter Games, once dominated by European sports. Short track is seen as favoring Asian countries, particularly South Korea and China.
Not unlike roller derby, short track skating features a pack of athletes, cruising gracefully – if they can stay on their feet – around a ring-shaped track. Fantastic falls, daring sprints, illegal moves, and those funny rubber-tipped gloves skaters wear add to thrill of the sprints.
Sources: nbcolympics.com, vancouver2010.com, apoloantonohno.com