ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2009 – Vienna (AUT)

The ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2009 has come to a close with a successful weekend. Over 120 athletes, representing 32 countries, participated at these championships in Vienna, Austria at the Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion ice rink. For a second consecutive year, Meng Wang of China was crowned World Short Track Speed Skating Champion for the ladies. Ho-Suk Lee of Korea took the men’s title.

The weekend kicked off with the 1500 meters competition and the qualifying heats for the ladies 3000 meters relay. The ladies 1500 meters final was a tightly contested race, with the top three finishers within six tenth of each other.  Korean skater Min-Jung Kim took the win, to become the Lady World Short Track Speed Skating Champion 1500 meters for 2009. Silver medal belongs to the Chinese skater Yang Zhou while the bronze goes to Sae-Bom Shin of Korea. Defending World Champion Meng Wang of China, who was sitting in second place with one lap to go, was disqualified during the event, starting off her quest for a repeat world championship title on a negative note.

In the men 1500 meters event, it was the opposite; Ho-Suk Lee of Korea began his quest for the world championship title on a very positive note, becoming the World Short Track Speed Skating Champions 1500 meters for 2009. With eight skaters at the start line, the race was going to be a difficult one to win, for anyone involved. The American skaters Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski led most of the laps however Ho-Suk Lee managed to take the win, moving up from fifth to first on the last lap. With the top five skaters separated by less than four tenths of a second, the silver medal belonged to his teammate Yoon-Gy Kwak. J.R. Celski was rewarded for his efforts with a bronze medal finish.

Saturday’s program included the 500 meters events for the ladies and men, as well as the men 5000 meters relay. The Chinese season’s domination of the ladies 500 meters event continued this weekend, with the team qualifying three skaters in the final. The other skater was Jessica Gregg of Canada. Meng Wang redeemed herself from the previous day’s mistake by taking the win in the 500m final, and become the Lady World Short Track Speed Skating Champions 500 meters for 2009. Her teammate Qiuhong Liu earned the silver medal, while Jessica Gregg took the bronze, to prevent a podium sweep by the Chinese.

The men 500 meters event was similar to the ladies, where one of the dominant teams throughout the 2008-09 season managed to qualify three skaters in the final. Canadians Charles Hamelin, Oliver Jean and Francois-Louis Tremblay were joined at the start line for the final by Yoon-Gy Kwak (Korea) and Jialiang Han (China). Ultimately, it was Charles Hamelin who took the win, dominating the race from start to finish. Silver medal went to Yoon-Gy Kwak, while the bronze went to Olivier Jean. With the win, Hamelin becomes the World Short Track Speed Skating Champions 500 meters for 2009.

The third and final day of these championships, was filled with lots of racing: the 1000 meters, 3000 meters Super Finals and relay events for both the ladies and men were on the schedule.

In the ladies 1000 meters event it was a China and Korea affair, with both teams qualifying two skaters each in the final. Throughout this past World Cup season, Meng Wang was the dominant skater in this distance, and her stronghold on the event continued. In the final, Meng Wang controlled the race by leading every single lap, to finish first. The podium was completed by Korean skaters, Min-Jung Kim in second, and Sae-Bom Shin in third.

In the men 1000 meters event, the Koreans had qualified two skaters as well in the final, and this time they were joined by two American skaters. The four skaters at the start line were Ho-Suk Lee, Yoon-Gy Kwak, Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski. For the second time this weekend, American skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who was in a strong position to win a race, saw the top podium finish escape him on the last lap, with a pass by Ho-Suk Lee. The podium was completed by J.R. Celski, who managed to earn his second podium finish of these championships.

In the last individual event of the weekend, the 3000 meters Super Finals, the ladies event was set to be an exciting one. With Meng Wang leading the overall standings after three events, there was still a mathematical chance for both Min-Jung Kim and Yang Zhou to become world champion, especially with the five extra points on hand, for the skater who crosses the line first after 1000 meters during the Super Final race. Six skaters took to the start, and in the end, Yang Zhou finished first ahead of Min-Jung Kim and Sae-Bom Shin respectively. Meng Wang managed to earn the five extra points, and with a fourth place finish, earned her second consecutive overall world championship title.

On the men side, with eight skaters at the start, the championship leader Ho-Suk Lee was in a great position to win the title, although all was possible for the top five after 3 distances. The 3000 meters Super Final event was won by J.R. Celski, which allowed him to move up into second place from third in the overall classification. With a second place finish in the race, Lee confirmed his crowning as the World Short Track Speed Skating Championship for 2009. Charles Hamelin managed to stay on the podium, with a third place finish in the Super Final.

The weekend concluded with the relay events, where in the ladies 3000 meters relay, the team of Canada, China, Korea and the United States qualified for the final. The Chinese led the vast majority of the race, to take the win and the title of Ladies World Short Track Speed Skating Relay Champions for 2009. In the men 5000 meters relay final, two noticeable teams were missing from the start line: Canada and Korea did not qualify their teams for the final. The battle for first place boiled down to the teams from the United States, China and Japan. Italy was also in the hunt, however was ultimately disqualified. The World Short Track Speed Skating Relay Champions for 2009 were the United States who narrowly edged out the Chinese team.

The majority of the skaters entered this weekend will be competing at the World Short Track Team Speed Skating Team Championships in Heerenveen, The Netherlands on March 13-15, 2009.