HARBIN, Northeast China -- Zhou Yang took the first gold medal for the host China in the women's short track speed skating 1500 meters competition at the 24th Winter Universiade in Harbin here on Thursday.
Zhou Yang (C) from China shows the mascot Dong Dong of the game with compatriots Liu Qiuhong (L) and Sun Linlin during the awarding ceremony of women's 1500m speed skating finals at the 24th World Winter Universiade in the capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province Thursday February 19, 2009. [Xinhua]
China became the biggest winner on the opening day of the short track skating as Zhou and her two compatriots swept all the medals in the 1500m final.
"We trust each other and the gold medal is the result of the teamwork," said the 18-year-old Zhou at the press conference.
"South Koreans are very strong in the 1500m event and I am proud that my girls could break their monopoly today," said the team leader Wang Chunlu.
The women's 1500m final turned to be a contest between China and South Korea, as each of the two powerhouses booked half of the six berths.
South Korean Kim Hye Kyung, gold medalist in the Turin Universiade in 2007, took the lead in the early stage, before the top skater in the world rankings Zhou skated to dominate the group with four laps left.
Zhou's compatriot Liu Qiuhong and Sun Linlin managed to block other South Koreans' way of counterattack and sealed the victory for China with Zhou clocking the fastest time of 2:31.658.
Liu Qiuhong finished with the silver at 2:31.821 while Sun Linlin took the bronze, timed at 2:32.201.
Chinese speed skaters Zhou Yang (L), Liu Qiuhong (C) and Sun Linlin competes during the women's 1500m speed skating finals at the 24th World Winter Universiade in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, February 19, 2009. [Xinhua]
"In the World Cups or World Championships, South Koreans often win the gold medal in the long-distance events. Today's victory will give us more confidence when we face South Koreans in the future," said Liu.
The first gold medal for China delighted the home crowd and the host skaters carried their Chinese flags crying out with excitement, and sped back into the center of the rink to receive the applause.
"I told myself before the competition that I was not the best in the Chinese team, but I would do my best in Harbin to improve myself," said the bronze medalist Sun.
"Girls did not perform as well as we had expected, but we will start to show our ability with the competition going on," said Song Jae Kun,the head coach in South Korea team.
The short track speed skating competitions, slated for February 19-23, attracts 58 male skaters and 45 female skaters from 18 countries and regions.