Kim Boutin captures short-track bronze medal at Winter Olympics
Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 13, 2018 12:11PM EST
GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of -- One officials' call put Canada's Kim Boutin into the final and another gave her a bronze medal in Olympic short-track speedskating on Tuesday.
Such are the risks and rewards in a high-speed sport known for frequent bumps and spills as five tightly packed skaters tear around the track.
Boutin only made it out of the semifinals of the women's 500-metre event when a foul was called on Chunyu Qu of China.
In a wild final, Boutin was running fifth and last when Elise Christie of Britain crashed. Boutin crossed the line fourth, but South Korean favourite Minjeong Choi was disqualified, moving the Sherbrooke, Que., skater into third place and onto the podium at her first Olympics.
"I was really excited before the race," said Boutin, who gave Canada its first short-track medal of the Pyeongchang Games. "I saw the crowd and my eyes started watering up and I just told myself that this wasn't the time for that, and that gave me the go-ahead to just go out and have fun.
"I'm really happy. I worked hard and I'm really proud. I had a great start. After that, I don't really remember but I know a lot of things happened."
Arianna Fontana of Italy, who won bronze in Vancouver in 2010 and silver in Sochi, Russia in 2014, took the gold medal ahead of Yara Van Kerkhof of the Netherlands.
Boutin, known for quick starts, started at the back and shot up to second place on the first turn. She held off two attacks from Choi, but dropped back after an aggressive passing manoeuvre by Christie. Fontana won in a photo-finish over Choi, but after a long delay, officials disqualified the South Korean, possibly for her second pass attempt on Boutin.
"I was waiting for the decision, I saw the officials talking," said Boutin's coach Frederic Blackburn, a double silver medallist at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France. "I was impressed with Kim's start. Going from fifth to second, you rarely see that. I like to call her Kimi Gonzalez after the cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzalez."
Boutin's teammate Marianne St-Gelais of St-Felicien, Que., a silver medallist in the 500-metres in Sochi, was on the wrong side of a call as she was disqualified in her quarterfinal for blocking Van Krekhof on the first turn.
St-Gelais, who is at her last Olympics, disagreed with the call.
"It's normal to be aggressive at the start," she said. "It's not the first time someone falls or that it gets rough at the start but it's the first time that a foul is called.
"I don't understand it. But that's life. No matter how many times I look at it, it's not going to change. You have to move on."
Watching Boutin win bronze helped cheer up St-Gelais, who was with her as they awaited the officials' decision after the final.
"Lucky that Marianne was there," said Boutin. "She said stay there. She knew something was going on.
"Marianne showed a lot of leadership and maturity. Not every athlete would have hung around to watch a teammate with a chance at a medal. She's a great inspiration for Canada."
Boutin and St-Gelais will be seeking more medals in the 1,000-metre event on Saturday and the 1,500-metres next week.