The commentary and images here are from Tom DiNardo. I have never really thought much about doing multiple-post collaborations, but Tom is so talented, how can I not?
Take it away Tom!
October 25th & 26th, the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, BC, hosted the ISU World Cup Short-track Speed Skating event.
It is a shame that this sport is not more widely received and televised in the States. It is impossible to understand the excitement and energy of this sport from statistics listed in result sheets. Even excellently-timed photos of last minute passes, unfortunate crashes and reactions of victory or defeat cannot begin to convey the wide range of emotions experienced by the skaters and die-hard fans willing to travel great lengths for the opportunity to see them in person.
I arrived Thursday to cover the last practice day and to get a handle on the best angle to capture some images. Even though every team was clearly working hard to bring their A-game to the upcoming events, there was still a lightness in the air; something best shown in this photo of Italian team member, Yuri Confortola.
With a smile like that, how can you not cheer for the guy? Especially when he puts out this kind of effort to take first in 1500m Men’s Semi Final Race 3:
In spite of the tension beginning to build Friday morning, there was a camaraderie here you don’t find in many other sports. During the race pictured above, members of the Bulgarian team were sitting in the seats directly behind where I was shooting and they were cheering loudly for Yuri. This kind of oneness that can transcend countries is, in my opinion, unique to sports like this.
The dedication to perfecting one’s craft requires such a single-minded pursuit of excellence that other athletes truly understand and appreciate it.
The US team was very focused and determined; the positive impact of Jae Su Chun’s coaching style was clearly seen in the performance of our skaters.
There were a number of crashes this weekend, as is usually the case when medals and place standings are on the line. One memorable crash was during the 1500m Ladies A Final. It was all going according to plan with US team members Reutter and Baver stalking the amazing Koreans. You could see that they wanted it. They were getting on the box today.
Then it all went wrong in a heartbeat.
You could feel the heartbreak in the Coliseum. I wasn’t sure I wanted to show this last shot because of how much I like Katherine and Allison, but I think it’s important to show how much heart they put into this sport. Like I mentioned earlier, the results sheet does not tell the story the way it needs to be told. Katherine and Allison wanted it so bad that they risked an outcome like this to win.
In the grand scheme of things, stepping up against the best in the world and making it to the finals is an incredible feat by itself.
China had a somewhat mixed performance this weekend. The depth of power and single-minded focus of the Chinese men’s team is really impressive, so I found it surprising that they did not come away with a single medal this weekend. Then you have Meng Wang. She is like a machine. Every lap of the 500m Ladies A Final was perfection for her.
Not to overshadow Jessica Hewitt’s excellent second place effort, but everyone else in this class is an also-ran at the moment. If you want to beat this lady, you better bring something special to the rink or Meng will hand you a beating you won’t forget.
The 1000m Ladies A was a real barn-burner from start to finish. It looked like China’s Yang Zhou had the race in the bag leading from the first lap until the last inch of the final lap. Below is Zhou cruising through the start of the final lap with Korea’s Sae-Bom Shin, China’s Hul Zhang, and Allison Baver in tow.
A few seconds later, Shin snatched the victory from Zhou as Baver dispatched Zhang in the same manner.
Unfortunately for Zhou, in addition to losing her podium spot in the final inches of the race, she also lost her balance and ended up visiting the pads at the end of the straight.
Ho-Suk Lee was the dominant force in the 500m Men’s A final. Below Jeff Simon gives Lee a run for his money. During that warp speed 4 1/2 laps, Lee, Simon and Francois-Louis Tremblay all took a turn at the front. In the end though, Simon and Tremblay couldn’t stop Lee’s final burst of speed. Tremblay somehow managed to find a way past Simon to take second on the last lap.
Francois Hamelin leading the first three laps of the 1000m Men’s Semi-Final 1.
Then the Korean’s went into overdrive and both Ho-Suk Lee and Yoon-Gy Kwak took over first and second on the final lap and held off Hamlin and China’s Ye Li to claim the top two spots on the podium.
Apolo Ohno, Canada’s Michael Gilday, and Korea’s Jung-Soo Lee all took a turn at the front during this race. In the end, Lee, Gilday, and Rami Beaulieu-Tinker took the top spots, leaving Apolo to settle with a rare fourth.
The final race of the day was the Men’s 5000m relay with twenty skaters on the ice representing the US, Canada, England and Japan. To say that this was the most heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat race of the weekend would be an understatement.
Here we see Canada’s Charles Hamlin leading Apolo Ohno, Satoru Terao, and Jon Eley.
Nine laps later, Jeff Simon put an excellent pass on Francois Hamelin.
With multiple lead changes and an intensity that resonated throughout the stadium, all eyes were on the ice. This was a tight race finished brilliantly by the US team with Canada and England placing second and third.
A little post race congratulations from Coach Chun before the medals ceremony.
It was an excellent finish to the weekend for the US team as we move onto the Asian and European segments of the World Cup.
A complete photo story of the weekend will be available at www.bellafaccie.com in the next few days.
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