S. Korea’s top short trackers renew friendly rivalry

SAPPORO, Japan-- South Korea's top two female short track speed skaters renewed their friendly rivalry at the Asian Winter Games here on Monday.

Choi Min-jeong got the upper hand on Shim Suk-hee to take the gold medal in the women's 1,500m at Makomanai Indoor Ice Rink. Choi finished her race in 2:29.416, just ahead of Shim's 2:29.569.

These two have dominated the world short track scene the past couple of years. Shim, who won three medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics, also won the world overall title that same year. Choi then went on to win the next two overall championships, and the two will likely duke it out for the world crown again next month.

The crowd gathered here in Sapporo got a glimpse of things to come Monday, as Choi, 18, edged out her 20-year-old teammate for her first Asian Games gold.

Choi said afterward her goal wasn't necessarily to beat Shim, but to make sure she wouldn't lose to Guo Yihan of China, who ended up with bronze.

"I tried not to put too much pressure on myself," Choi said. "Toward the end, Guo and Suk-hee were just ahead, but all I wanted to do was to beat the Chinese."

Choi said she and Shim don't usually talk about their rivalry.

"My first objective is to beat skaters from other countries," she added. "After that, I think some friendly rivalry within the team does help everyone get better."

The two are different types of skaters. Shim, the lankier of the two at 175 centimeters, is also more durable with fluid strides. Choi is more explosive and has also improved her power of late.

Choi's main event is the 1,000m, and she has also made big strides in the 500m, traditionally the weakest event for South Koreans. But she said the race she wants to win the most is the 3,000m relay.

"I haven't given much thought to winning multiple gold medals here," Choi said. "But above all, I hope we can win the relay title so that everyone will go home with a gold medal."

Shim came in ranked No. 1 in the world this season in the 1,500m, and said she was disappointed with the way she finished the race here.

As for her rivalry with Choi, Shim said, "It's the best way for both of us to continue to get better. We always compete at practices and competitions, and we give each other a lot of strength."

Shim is known for her dogged determination and single-minded focus, and said her disappointment in the 1,500m won't make her any more driven than she already is.

"No matter what happened today, I'll still do the best I can in every race," she added. "I'll bear down and try to get better."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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