By Simon Jennings
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Hungary claimed their first gold medal at a Winter Olympics by pulling off a stunning victory in the men’s 5,000 meters relay on Thursday after a fall cost South Korea a place on the podium.
Hungary had never won a short-track medal at the Winter Olympics and their first was sealed in an Olympic record time of 6 minutes 31.971 seconds. China finished 0.064 seconds behind for silver and Canada took bronze.
Brothers Sandor Liu Shaolin and Shaoang Liu raced alongside Viktor Knoch and Csaba Burjan to make history for Hungary in the final short track event of the Games.
They celebrated wildly at the end, high-fiving and hugging their technical staff beside the track before skating around the rink holding their country’s flag.
“”It’s such a big honor,” Sandor Shaolin told reporters. “The journey was really long to get here. The team qualified for the Olympics in eighth position, the last position, and we made it count.
“I couldn’t say anything (after crossing the line). I couldn’t think anything. I was just screaming and I was trying to find my team.”
The race got off to a cagey start with all four teams in contention until disaster struck for the Koreans midway through when one of their skaters went sprawling.
By the time he had found his feet, Korea were half a lap behind, and though they pushed hard to catch up, the effort they expended told in the end and they finished nearly three-quarters of a lap behind everyone else.
The Hungarians bided their time, skating within themselves and letting China and Canada set the pace in the 45-lap race before putting on a late surge that secured the gold medal.
“We had some issues with stamina and mistakes that led to this result. We came in wanting the gold,” Chinese skater Wu Dajing said.
“As a team, we’re quite united. We desire a better result, a breakthrough and we help each other and encourage each other a lot. We’re really looking forward to Beijing 2022.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings, editing by Ed Osmond)