[BEIJING OLYMPICS] Teary over individual silver, short tracker Choi Min-jeong all smiles with relay silver

BEIJING — Two silver medals at Beijing 2022 brought out vastly different reactions from South Korean short track speed skater Choi Min-jeong.

She was inconsolable after winning silver in the 1,000m on Friday at Capital Indoor Stadium. She later explained it was mostly tears of joy, though she didn’t sound all that convincing.

Hours later, Choi took to social media to say she would only smile from now on.

And Choi kept her promise Sunday, as she was all smiles after helping South Korea to win a silver medal in the 3,000m relay behind the Netherlands.

“I cried too much the last time out, and I felt like I broke the hearts of too many people around me,” Choi said. “I had a lot to smile about today. I was so happy to win this medal with my teammates.”

South Korea had won the past two Olympic relay titles, but the winning streak ended in Beijing, as the Dutch team, led by the 1,000m champion Suzanne Schulting, held on for gold. Choi’s late push fell just a little short.

And it was Choi who anchored South Korea to the final in the first place, using her late burst of speed in the semifinal Friday.

“It would have been nice for us to keep that winning tradition alive,” Choi said. “But we did the best we could under the circumstances, and so we have no regrets tonight.”

Those circumstances include missing two of the top three finishers from the national Olympic trials last year. Shim Suk-hee, a member of the 2014 and 2018 relay title teams, was out after being banned for disparaging her teammates in text exchanges with a coach during the 2018 Olympics. Kim Ji-yoo was ruled out with an ankle injury.

Lee Yu-bin said it was a shame that Kim didn’t get to compete in the Olympics, after she’d worked so hard during the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup season to earn Olympic quota places for the country.

“I hope she will be skating with us at the next Olympics,” Lee said. “I’d like to thank her for all the work she did for the national team, and I am really sorry she couldn’t make the team.”

Kim A-lang, who also skated on the 2014 and 2018 teams, said she was trying to ease the burden on Choi as the team’s undisputed ace.

“The rest of us were all trying to do our part, because we knew just how much pressure was on Min-jeong’s shoulders,” said Kim, who started the late rally as the second-to-last skater in the final.

“And we really gave everything we had on the ice. This is a pretty meaningful silver medal for all of us.”

Seo Whi-min, the youngest member at 19 and the only first-time Olympian on the team, was the only one to shed tears after the race.

“This stage was almost too big for me, and I was just so relieved that the race was done,” Seo said, smiling. “I was also elated to win this silver. I couldn’t have done this without help from my teammates.” (Yonhap)

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