Short track speedskating in Sochi sure is living up to its reputation as roller derby on ice.
During quarterfinals in the men’s 500 meters and women’s 1,000 meters on Friday night, only three of eight heats ended with a clean race. Here’s a list of the spills and penalties as racers circled the same Iceberg Skating Palace track used for figure skating:
In the men’s 500:
Heat 1: Russia’s Semen Elistratov bumps a competitor for a shaky finish and a penalty.
Heat 2: Japan’s Satoshi Sakashita takes a spill just before J.R. Celski tumbles into a wall, but Se Yeong Park is penalized for a bump, allowing Celski to move to the semifinals.
Heat 3: Russia’s Vladimir Grigorev falls forward and slides sideways, taking out Freek van der Wart of the Netherlands. Grigorev is penalized.
Heat 4: Clean run with all competitors finishing within 0.51 seconds of one another.
In the women’s 1,000:
Heat 1: After two false starts, Great Britain’s Elise Christie takes out a block on the first lap. France’s Veronique Pierron then touches her toe to another skater, sending her into a spin against the wall for a penalty.
Heat 2: Clean run with five skaters on the ice. Canada’s Valerie Maltais wins wire-to-wire, with all skaters finishing within one second of one another.
Heat 3: Italy’s Arianna Fontana slips as she makes the fourth turn on the penultimate lap, earning a penalty, then American Emily Scott tumbles across the finish line, failing to qualify for the semifinals.
Heat 4: Clean run won by Jessica Smith of the United States, with the competitors spaced within 0.4 seconds.
Slalom through drama
After crossing the finish line on her first slalom run, Lebanon’s Jacky Chamoun waved her ski poles as if she had just won a medal.
Turns out, a race was just the distraction she needed after topless photos surfaced of her on the Internet.
Chamoun wasn’t the fastest in her opening run Friday night — she was 23.43 seconds behind leader Mikaela Shiffrin — but Chamoun sure made up for it in gusto as she celebrated making it through the tricky course setting.
“I’m so happy to be here. It’s a great feeling to participate,” the 22-year-old said.
Chamoun said after her run that she didn’t give the off-the-slopes drama a second thought. Shortly after she arrived in Sochi, behind-the-scenes footage from a calendar shoot three years ago was posted online.
That prompted a Lebanese government official to order an investigation. The implication was that Chamoun had somehow harmed the country’s reputation.
“Small things aren’t going to disturb me, even if it was a big story in the country,” Chamoun said. “For me, I just continue. It’s not a big obstacle.”
Keep the Change
Kelsey Serwa unzipped her plaid Team Canada jacket and reached into her left breast pocket. You could call it her “loonie bin.”
The Canadian silver medalist in women’s skicross then carefully pulled out two coins. The first was a minted Russian piece of silver given to her by her mother on Thursday. The other was a brand new loonie, the $1 Canadian coin (top right).
The 24-year-old carries one as good luck for most races, a tradition she started several years ago. She stuck to it even through a pair of torn ACLs in her left knee that had Serwa pondering whether to hang up her skis.
“I thought about stepping away after I blew my career again last year,” she said. “Once that came into my mind I got really sad and I realized I wasn’t ready for retirement yet.”
Serwa called her recovery in time for Sochi “miraculous” and while her silver medal will find a special place in her home in British Columbia, the loonie that was along for the ride isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s fresh,” she said with a laugh. “I think I’ll keep it for a while.”