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Teen short tracker Kim Gil-li completes 1,500m sweep at ISU World Cup on home ice

Dec. 17, 2023 - 22:18 By Yonhap

Kim Gil-li of South Korea celebrates after winning the women's 1,500-meter gold medal at the International Skating Union World Cup Short Track Speed Skating at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)

South Korean teenager Kim Gil-li completed her sweep of women's 1,500-meter titles at the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup Short Track Speed Skating on home ice Sunday.

Kim won the second of two 1,500m finals at Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul on Sunday, some 24 hours after winning the first one, with a time of 2:23.746. Kristen Santos-Griswold of the United States finished second in 2:23.968, followed by Hanne Desmet of Belgium in 2:24.283.

The 19-year-old has never previously won two individual titles at a single World Cup stop until this weekend.

"It feels great to win two gold medals for the first time at a World Cup, and doing so in Seoul makes it even more special," Kim said afterward.

Kim has won at least one gold in all four World Cup stops so far this season. She leads the overall World Cup standings with 865 points, 60 ahead of Santos-Griswold.

In Sunday's final, Kim brought up the rear early on in the 13.5-lap race, with fellow Korean Shim Suk-hee in the middle. Desmet sprinted way ahead of the pack after a couple of laps, daring others to try to catch up.

Kim stayed in the back, biding her opportunity and waiting for Desmet to inevitably lose steam. Shim briefly moved into the lead position with Kim up to fifth place with four laps to go. Then Kim started making her move on the outside, zooming past two Americans, Santos-Griswold and Corinne Stoddard.

Kim grabbed the lead with one lap to go and cruised across the finish line ahead of Santos-Griswold. Shim ended up in fifth place.

Kim said she felt her chances of winning the final increased when Desmet put on an early charge.

"Given the poor quality of ice here, it can take a lot out of you if you're leading early and trying to hold on for a few laps," Kim explained.

Asked if she felt confident that she could win any race on the ice, Kim smiled and said, "No, that's not the case. But I always try to do the best I can."

Before the start of the World Cup, Kim had declared that her goal was to win multiple gold medals before home fans.

"I ended up putting more pressure on myself that way," Kim said with a smile. "But after I won this second gold medal, I was able to relax a bit. I felt proud of myself."

In the second men's 1,500m final Sunday, South Korea's Park Ji-won grabbed silver behind William Dandjinou of Canada. On Saturday, Park had edged out Dandjinou for the gold in the first 1,500m final.

Dandjinou and Park were in the lead early on, with Yerkebulan Shamukhanov of Kazakhstan and Niall Treacy of Britain also in the mix. Park dropped back to sixth before putting on a charge and positioning himself behind Treacy in second place with nine laps remaining.

Multiple lead changes followed, with Dandjinou and Shamukhanov jostling for position in front while Park found himself in third and then in fourth place.

Dandjinou pulled ahead with three laps to go, leaving others to race for second place. Park ended up in second place and Steven Dubois of Canada finished third after Shamukhanov received a penalty for illegal passing.

Park remained in second place in the men's overall World Cup standings with 681 points, only two back of Dubois.

With two World Cups remaining this season, Park said he will have plenty of time to move past Dubois.

"If I may make a football analogy, the first three World Cup events represented the first half, and we're about 15 minutes into the second half now," said Park, a huge fan of football. "In football, teams score goals during stoppage time. If I can keep battling over the final 30 minutes, I know I will have a chance to finish on top."

Skaters earn points based on their finishes in individual races: 100 points for a win, 80 points for a second-place finish and 70 points for a third-place finish, and so forth.

The World Cup winners are awarded the Crystal Globe trophy at the season's end. Park was the inaugural winner for men last season.

Also on Sunday, Seo Yi-ra grabbed silver in the men's 500m for his first international individual medal since winning the 1,000m bronze medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Seo, 31, had retired after coming up short in the national team trials for the 2019-2020 season and began coaching. Inspired after watching old teammates at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Seo returned to competition in the fall of 2022 and earned a national team spot for the 2023-2024 season.

Seo's last World Cup medal had come during the 2015-2016 season.

Seo led Sunday's final with two laps to go, but was nipped at the finish line by Liu Shaoang of China.

In a photo finish, Liu earned the gold in 41.196 seconds, with Seo coming home in 41.205 seconds.

South Korea picked up silver in the women's 3,000m relay, with a quartet of Kim Gil-li, Shim Suk-hee, Lee So-yeon and Seo Whi-min finishing the 27-lap race in 4:10.607. The Netherlands won gold in 4:10.181.

South Korea hung around third place most of the race, and then dropped to fourth with three laps to go. But then Kim put on a powerful charge over the final turn and dragged her team to second place.

South Korea missed the podium by finishing in fourth place in the men's 5,000m relay, after Kim Gun-woo lost his balance and fell with 13.5 laps remaining in the 45-lap race. South Korea had been leading for most of the race before China moved ahead and Kim dropped to the ice soon afterward.

This was the first ISU World Cup Short Track event in South Korea in six years.

The next World Cup will take place in Dresden, Germany, in February 2024. (Yonhap)