By GRANT ROBERTSON
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -- Short-track speed skating giveth, and short-track speed skating taketh away.
There's no other way to explain what happened to Canada during the 500metre race in Pyeongchang on Tuesday when a surprised Kim Boutin won bronze, and a frustrated Marianne StGelais saw her gold-medal chance dashed.
For a sport contested on a flat sheet of ice, what transpired on Tuesday was a reminder of its remarkable ups and downs. Skating in the final, Boutin crossed the finish line in fourth place, and figured that was it. But moments later, a judges' decision to disqualify a South Korean skater elevated her to third - and onto the podium with a bronze medal. "I'm like, 'Okay, what happened? Where am I?' " an elated Boutin said afterward. "So it was a surprise, of course."
If she was struggling to process the moment, she could be forgiven. Only a few hours earlier, the Canadian team was dealt a blow when gold-medal favourite St-Gelais was disqualified during her quarter-final race in a decision that left them stunned.
Seconds into the race, St-Gelais was whistled for impeding another skater, which she thought meant the race would be restarted.
Instead, the judges reviewed the tape and issued a disqualification, ending her shot at a gold medal in the event she won silver in at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
St-Gelais struggled to explain the call. Although penalties for impeding opponents are common in short track, when they happen so early in the race it typically results in a restart. St-Gelais also figured she was free and clear of Dutch rival Yara van Kerkhof when the fall happened.
"I knew I needed to have a good start, which I had. I was ahead of the girl. She fell, and I've been called," St-Gelais said. "I'm not happy with the decision."
Boutin, 23, who is skating in her first Olympics and counts St-Gelais, 27, as a mentor, also struggled to see why the ruling was made.
"I've never seen that before," she said.
"It's really sad."
Italy's Arianna Fontana won gold, while van Kerkhof won silver.
When an exhausted Boutin crossed the finish line in the final, though, it was St-Gelais who grabbed her and told her to stay on the ice. The veteran had seen something in the race that suggested another disqualification was imminent.
"Marianne told me, 'You stay here.' So maybe she knew that something was going to happen," Boutin said.
After a short delay, the judges penalized South Korea's Choi Minjeong, much to the dismay of the hometown crowd. The ruling put Boutin on the podium, redeeming the race for the Canadians.
"It takes a lot for her to be there and to celebrate the medal with me. Because I know she also really wanted this medal. She really deserved the gold medal," Boutin said. "She's my inspiration."
From left, Italy's Arianna Fontana, South Korea's Choi Minjeong and Canada's Kim Boutin compete in the 500-metre final at Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES