SOCHI, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Russian short track speed skater Viktor Ahn captured a record fifth gold medal when he won the men’s 500 metre final at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Friday.
Ahn added the 500m title to the 1,000m crown he won last week to validate his reputation as one the sport’s greatest competitors, while rubbing salt into the wounds of his birthland South Korea.
Ahn won three gold medals at the 2006 Olympics in Turin when he was competing for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo but fell out with skating officials after he was not selected for the 2010 Vancouver games.
He switched his allegiances to Russia and changed his name after being granted citizenship and his success in Sochi has infuriated people in his Asian homeland, with President Park Geun-hye ordering a government investigation into how one of the country’s top athletes ended up competing for a rival.
Adding insult to injury, no South Korean man even made it to Friday’s sprint final, as Wu Dajing of China won the silver medal and the bronze went to Charle Cournoyer of Canada, after Chinese world champion Liang Wenhao fell in the four-man final.
South Korea did collect gold in the women’s 1,000m final a few minutes later when Park Seung-hi stormed to victory at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Fan Kexin of China won the silver medal while the bronze went to Park’s countrywoman Shim Suk-hee.
Britain’s Elise Christie was disqualified in the semi-finals to complete a miserable Olympics after she was earlier eliminated from the 500m and 1500m after running foul of officials.
With his victory, the 28-year-old Ahn became the first short track speed skater to win five Olympic gold medals and took his overall total to seven, just one short of the all-time record currently held by retired American Apolo Ohno.
Ahn had a chance to equal Ohno’s total of eight later on Friday in the men’s 5,000m relay after Russia qualified for the five-team final.
“I could never do it, but for anybody to change citizenship and skate for another country - that’s really, really difficult to do,” Ohno said.
“But he took that risk and that massive gamble. There’s something to be said for what he’s gone through emotionally and physically as an athlete.” (Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Ossian Shine)