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Team USA Wins Bronze In 3,000-Meter Relay; China Grabs Gold

BETH HARRIS   02/24/10 11:15 PM ET   AP

Team Usa Wins Bronze Relay Speed Skating

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — China won the women's 3,000-meter relay short track speedskating final Wednesday night after four-time defending champion South Korea was disqualified for impeding at the Olympics.

The South Koreans crossed the finish line first, but after a discussion by referees, they were disqualified for clicking skates with China just after an exchange with five laps to go.

China's team of Sun Linlin, Wang Meng, Zhang Hui and Zhou Yang leaped for joy when they were declared Olympic champions – the first time in the event. The Chinese are ranked No. 1 in the world and set the relay world record in October 2008.

The Canadian team of Jessica Gregg, Kalyna Roberge, Marianne St-Gelais and Tania Vicent won the silver, and the United States took the bronze in the four-team final. It was the Americans' first medal in the event since 1994, when they also won bronze.

It was the second gold each for Wang and Zhou. Wang won the 500, and Zhou won the 1,500. St-Gelais earned another silver to go with the one she earned in the 500.

The American team of Allison Baver, Alyson Dudek, Lana Gehring and Katherine Reutter fell back to last place early in the 27-lap race and never moved up, but the DQ allowed them onto the medal podium.

"There's the victory and the glory," Reutter said. "This may not have been the most glorious, but we were victorious."

Earlier at Pacific Coliseum, Apolo Anton Ohno advanced through the 500 heats, setting up the American for his last shot at an individual gold medal.

South Koreans Cho Ha-ri, Kim Min-jung, Lee Eun-byul and Park Seung-hi had their country's flags in hand and were ready to celebrate. Within minutes, though, it all changed. The DQ was announced and they slowly lowered their flags to the ice. Cho put her head down and used her left arm to cover her eyes.

None competed on South Korea's winning team four years ago in Turin.

A victory would have allowed South Korea to break a tie with Germany for most consecutive wins in a specific women's event at the Winter Games. South Korea had won the 3,000 relay in every Olympics since 1994. Germany won the women's 5,000-meter long-track speedskating and the women's luge singles in four consecutive Olympics.

South Korea's Kim was in the lead when her left skate blade clicked with the right blade of China's Sun. From there, South Korea's Park pulled away to a big lead before teammate Cho finished off what they thought was a record fifth gold medal.

Instead, the title went to the Chinese, who smiles and waved, each one holding a corner of their country's flag. Zhang later appeared on the podium with a bandage on her chin. She needed treatment when blood gushed from her face, which apparently was cut during the team's celebration.

In the men's 500, Ohno won his 4 1/2-lap heat, finishing just in front of Canadian Olivier Jean. Ohno will return Friday, and must advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds to skate for a medal in the 500, where he is the defending Olympic champion.

Ohno believes he's a faster skater than he was four years ago in Turin.

"I'm going to need more (speed) if I'm going to make the final," he said.

Ohno was going for the victory because a skater's placement determines their starting position in the next round.

"It's very important to do well each time. Even though some of the other guys are way out in front, they keep going hard because they want to make sure they have a good seeding time," he said. "Say you have the fastest time of the day, the next round you have inside lane position, which is a big, big advantage."

Also on the final night of short track competition, Ohno will lead the U.S. men in the 5,000 relay final against powerful South Korea, China, Canada and France.

Ohno has won a silver and a bronze at the Vancouver Games, making him the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian with seven career medals.

Also moving on was American Simon Cho, who finished second in his heat. His teammate, Jordan Malone, was skating second when he hit a lane marker and wiped out just before the finish. Only the top two finishers in each of eight heats advanced.

The 500 is about going as fast as a skater can from the very start. Ohno overtook Jean, who was cheered wildly by the pro-Canadian crowd, with an easy move.

Among others advancing were South Koreans Sung Si-bak, Lee Ho-suk and Kwak Yoon-gy, Canadians Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay, China's Han Jialiang and Latvia's Haralds Silovs, who qualified for these games in both short- and long-track speedskating.

Hamelin is the world champion, while Tremblay is ranked second in the world and was the silver medalist four years ago in Turin.

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Filed by Whitney Snyder  |