Zhou Yang retains women's 1500m title

Updated: 2014-02-15 20:38 By LEI LEI in Sochi, Russia (chinadaily.com.cn)

Speed skater stages comeback to win 1,500m short track at Sochi Olympics

Zhou Yang retains women's 1500m title

Winner China's Zhou Yang (R) holds up her national flag along with compatriot Li Jianrou after the women's 1,500 metres short track speed skating finals race at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games February 15, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Two gold medals at two consecutive Winter Olympics — but claimed with two different sets of feelings.

Having experienced ups and downs after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, China's Zhou Yang successfully defended her Olympic title in the women's 1,500m short track speed skating at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games on Saturday.

Her victory came after years of trials following the 2010 Games.

"It had been very difficult for me in the past four years, and this moment finally came. I finally made it," the 22-year-old said after her win.

"I was in very bad condition after the last Olympics, and I used to think of giving up. But the whole team supported me, and my coach has never given up on me. I still had the dream to pursue. So, I came here to win."

At the final in Sochi, Zhou — the world record holder — skated near the front for the race's duration and avoided a three-skater collision mid-race.

She took the lead with one lap to go, edging out archrival Shim Suk-hee of South Korea.

Zhou finished in 2 minutes, 19.140 seconds and was followed by Shim, who took silver. The 500m silver medalist Arianna Fontana of Italy took the bronze.

It was China's third gold at the Sochi Games and the second one from short track speed skating.

China's Li Jianrou won the women's 500m on Thursday. Li did not finish the 1,000m race due to the collision.

"I was nervous at the beginning, but after I finished it I felt so thrilled," Zhou said.

"When I won four years ago, it was a dream come true, and I knew I could help my parents live better lives. But now, after experiencing a lot during the past four years, I didn't expect I could come back to the Olympic Games.

"I just wanted to do my best during training and competition. I'm very happy that I've stepped on the highest podium again."

The native of Northeast China's Jilin province was selected by a local coach for speed skating at the age of 8 and soon turned to short track. She entered the national team in 2006 and won the World Junior Championships immediately afterward with a gutsy display of power and pride.

Her form improved en route to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

She blazed a new world record in the 1,500m in 2008. In addition to her gold in Vancouver, she also helped the Chinese team win the women's 3,000m relay.

But Zhou's performance bottomed out after Vancouver because of an injury and poor physical condition. She did not compete in any international competitions until the 2013-14 season, when she claimed two bronzes at the World Cup Series.

Coach Li Yan said Zhou has beaten herself.

"Being persistent is the spirit of China's short track speed skating team. We will never give up in the face of difficulties," Li said.

"Everyone could see Zhou's persistence. She conquered the injuries and the weak mindset to win."

Zhou vowed to continue the team's dominance in Sochi.

"We have won two gold medals, but that was far from enough. The gold medals are on offer there. The 3,000m relay is the event we most want to win. We will be united to strive for it."

China swept all the four short track speed skating gold medals on the women's side at the Vancouver Games four years ago. The team was led by captain Wang Meng.

Wang failed to make the team in Sochi due to a severe injury just three weeks before the Games.

Zhou Yang retains women's 1500m title Zhou Yang retains women's 1500m title Zhou Yang retains women's 1500m title
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