* South Korea successfully defend relay title
* Italy take silver, Netherlands bronze
* Canada and China disqualified (Adds quotes, detail)
By Steve Keating
GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - South Korea powered to gold in a chaotic Olympic women’s short track speed skating 3,000 metres relay on Tuesday, defending the title they won in Sochi.
There were anxious moments at the conclusion of a typically wild and woolly relay as officials reviewed a race filled with crashes and near wipeouts before disqualifying Canada and China to elevate Italy to the silver medal.
The Netherlands, who did not make the final, were the most surprised as they collected the bronze after setting a world record of four minutes, 3.471 seconds to win the B final.
For Italy’s Arianna Fontana, winner of the 500m last Tuesday, the silver was her seventh Olympic medal, a record for women’s short track.
All that mattered for the South Korean crowd, however, was that their team’s name remained at the top of the leaderboard and a huge roar erupted when the official results appeared.
“Everything just flashed back when Minjeong finished her race and I cried because I felt so happy and thankful to my team mates,” South Korea’s Kim Alang told reporters.
In a tactical and frenetic race the South Koreans spent most of the early laps at the back of pack but muscled their way into the lead with two laps left and clinched a rousing win to maintain their domination of the event.
Canada won the first relay gold at the 1992 Albertville Olympics but South Korea has taken ownership since, topping the podium in six of the next seven Games with only China interrupting that run with victory in 2010.
It was Choi Minjeong’s second gold of the Games to go along with the one she claimed in the 1,500m while Shim Sukhee and Kim Alang also celebrated gold for a second time after helping South Korea to relay glory in Sochi. Kim Yejin completed the winning foursome.
“It is a glorious performance in the stadium, it is our home ground so much more meaningful,” said Choi, who is poised to become South Koreas golden girl of Games.
“I won the gold in the 1,500 and event and gold today for the relay and I am very happy about that.”
A near capacity crowd at the Gangneung Ice Centre were warmed up for the 3,000m finale after watching South Korean skaters dominate the women’s 1,000 and men’s 500 heats.
The North Korean cheer squad was also out in force to support Jong Kwang Bom but failed to inspire him.
He fell before reaching the first turn and on the restart got tangled up with other skaters, sliding on his backside into the padding before being disqualified. (Additional reporting by Jane Chung and Simon Jennings, Editing by Ed Osmond)