By Julien Pretot
Ren Ziwei led a Chinese one-two and earned the host nation’s second gold at the Beijing Olympics during a chaotic final fracas in the short track speed skating 1,000 meters on Monday.
Ren appeared to grab Hungarian Liu Shaolin as both propelled their skates to the line in the tightest of finishes.
But Liu, who crossed the line first, was then disqualified for an illegal contact with another skater moments earlier at the end of an action- and crash-packed evening that saw South Korea’s Park Jang-hyuk carried off the ice on a stretcher after a fall.
Ren was not penalized in the official review, and his compatriot Li Wenlong was promoted to second place.
“The race today was tough. It was full of twists and turns,” Li said. “I don’t think there is any question or doubt. Everyone earned it.”
Liu Shaolin’s brother, Liu Shaoang, took bronze at the end of a race that was restarted after a few laps because of metal pieces on the track.
Earlier in the day, world record holder Hwang Dae-heon of South Korea was disqualified for an “illegal late pass causing contact,” according to the official screen, which gave no more details.
The decision could raise eyebrows after South Korean short tracker Kwak Yoon-gy had already questioned the fairness of refereeing at the Beijing Olympics after China claimed the gold medal in the mixed team relay on Saturday.
All three skaters on the podium, however, stayed clear of controversy.
“We are not referees, there is nothing we can do,” Liu Shaoang told a news conference.
“It was a pretty exciting race from the start to the end.”
Asked what he told his brother after the race, Liu, whose father is Chinese, said: “I told him that I was proud of him and that these things happen in short track, to take a rest and come back stronger because tomorrow is another day. He said nothing.”
World No. 1 Pascal Dion of Canada was also eliminated, in the quarter-finals.
It was Ren’s second gold medal at this Games after he won for China in the mixed team relay final.
“It’s a tough race. But all short track races are tough,” he said. “I don’t have time to enjoy the gold medal as I still have several more to fight for.
“As for the race, we are short track skaters. It happens. We all fight for gold, never for less than that.”