Short track world records broken, fallen champion remembered in Salt Lake City
An enduring moment of the World Cup short track speed skating stop near Salt Lake City, Utah, this weekend came well after five world records fell.
Following two days of racing, officials at the Utah Olympic Oval changed out a world records display board with the new marks set in perhaps the fastest meet of all time.
One of the fallen records belonged to South Korean Noh Jin-kyu, the 2011 World overall champion who died of cancer on April 3 at age 23.
In January 2014, Noh broke an elbow one month before what was to be his Olympic debut in Sochi. Under further inspection, a malignant tumor was found in his shoulder showing he had bone cancer, forcing him off the Olympic team and into chemotherapy.
At the Olympic Oval on Sunday, the panel with Noh’s 1500m world-record time, broken by the Netherlands’ Sjinkie Knegt earlier that day, was handed to the South Korean team, reportedly to bring to Noh’s family. A moment of silence was also held for Noh.
Knegt, the 2015 World overall champion best known for this obscene gesture, was one of many record breakers this past weekend. The Utah Olympic Oval has been known since before the 2002 Olympics to be home to the world’s fastest ice, but that designation has been more associated with long-track speed skating than short track.
The new marks set, remarkably all but one by more than one second, came in five of the eight events on the Olympic program:
Men’s 1000m Old Record: Semyon Elistratov (RUS, 2016) -- 1:22.607 New Record: Daeheon Hwang (KOR) -- 1:20.875
Men’s 1500m Old Record: Noh Jin-kyu (KOR, 2011) -- 2:09.041 New Record: Sjinkie Knegt (NED) -- 2:07.943
Women’s 500m Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2014) -- 42.504 New Record: Elise Christie (GBR) -- 42.335
Women’s 1500m Old Record: Fan Kexin (CHN, 2008) -- 2:16.729 New Record: Choi Min-jeong (KOR) -- 2:14.352
Women’s 3000m relay Old Record: South Korea (2013) -- 4:06.215 New Record: South Korea -- 4:04.222
Of all the record-breaking skaters, perhaps Choi deserves the most attention. The 18-year-old is the two-time reigning World overall champion. Given South Korea has no active female short track skaters with individual Olympic titles -- its only one from 2010 or 2014 is now a long-track skater -- Choi may face intense attention during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.
Viktor Ahn, the South Korean-turned-Russian who won three golds and one bronze in Sochi, didn’t compete on Saturday and Sunday due to a cold, according to Russian media.
Also in Salt Lake City last weekend, two American records fell out of 49 total national records set in two days. The U.S. team is trying to rebuild after earning zero individual medals in Sochi, its poorest showing at the Olympics since 1998.
Katherine Reutter, the two-time 2010 Olympic medalist coming back from a three-year retirement, broke her American 1000m record set when she took silver at the Vancouver Winter Games.
In two World Cups this season, Reutter has two fifths and a sixth-place finish. No U.S. woman has made the podium.
“I feel like I’m right below the threshold,” Reutter said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t know what it is that’s got to click, but I know when I get there, the game’s going to change. ... I know that moment is coming. I just have to take my medicine and wait for it to get there.
“I’d really love a medal. But incremental steps are OK. To actually get sixth, that hurt my feelings. That is what it is.”
Keith Carroll, Jr. broke the American men’s record in the 1000m, previously held by 2014 Olympian Chris Creveling (set in 2012).
Also, John-Henry Krueger won the first individual U.S. World Cup medal in nearly two years, 1500m bronze, breaking the U.S.’ longest drought in the two-decade history of the World Cup.
Krueger, who trains in South Korea, is the only American to earn an individual World Cup medal since the Sochi Olympics. He was plagued by swine flu during the 2014 Olympic Trials, missing the Sochi team after entering as one of the favorites.
The short track World Cup continues in Shanghai in December.
NBC Olympics researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Utah.