BEIJING (Reuters) -Arianna Fontana became the only short track speed skater, female or male, to win nine Olympic medals when she took silver with Italy in the mixed team relay at the Beijing Games on Saturday, and she can safely expect more to come in Beijing.
Fontana, who has one gold, three silver and five bronze, was tied with American Apolo Ohno and Russian Viktor Ahn on eight medals.
The 31-year-old, who made her Olympic debut at her home Games in Turin in 2006, can add to her tally in the 1,000 metres, 1,500m, 3,000m relay and 500m.
She started the defence of her title on the shortest distance with a smooth progression into the quarter-finals on Saturday.
“I’m pretty happy with my ninth medal and to get it right at the start of the Olympics is a big booster for the next events,” Fontana told reporters.
“It gives me a lot of energy and I cannot wait to compete individually and with the girls in the relay.”
Her relaxed approach to the event might explain Fontana’s success.
“There was not a lot of pressure before the competition,” she said.
“I really wanted to beat the record but I was confident as I had trained hard in the last three years. And tonight was a job well done.”
Fontana felt the most nervous in the last laps when Italy’s fate was in the hands of the last skater in the relay, Pietro Sighel.
“I’m not used to stay in the middle and watch somebody else finish the race,” she said with a smile.
Fontana will be back to the Capital Indoor Stadium on Monday for the remainder of the 500 metres competition.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)