By Simon Jennings
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Wu Dajing won China’s first Olympic gold medal in the men’s 500 meters on Thursday, setting a world record time of 39.584 seconds to beat South Korea’s Hwang Dae-heon.
Wu, who in qualifying broke the previous record set by American John Celski in 2012, went 0.216 seconds faster in the final, with another South Korean, Lim Hyo-jun, taking the bronze medal.
The 23-year-old Chinese skater clenched his fists above his head in celebration as he took a victory lap around the rink at Gangneung Ice Arena.
“Today, I didn’t give my competitors a chance and I kept my speed from the start,” he said. “More importantly I think I believed in myself.”
Wu won silver in the 500m at the Sochi Olympics four years ago behind Russian Viktor Ahn, and he put in a flawless display in Korea, leading the race from the start and finishing 0.27 seconds ahead of Hwang.
He is the first Chinese man to win an Olympic short track gold medal and has dominated the distance since Sochi, winning 10 men’s 500m races at world championships and in the World Cup.
Wu failed to make the final in either the 1,000m or 1,500m after picking up penalties in qualifying, but ended his Olympic campaign with silver with his team mates in the men’s 5,000m relay final, which was held after the 500m.
“There definitely was pressure,” Wu added. “The Chinese team didn’t really perform to our potential and we came in today really determined.
“I’m very emotional and happy to have won China’s first gold here.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings, editing by Ed Osmond)