Gold for Chinese team; U.S. gets bronze

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A disqualification, a bloodied skater and the American team wins a medal after nearly getting lapped.

Just another night at short-track speedskating.

South Korea crossed the finish line first in the women's 3,000-meter relay Wednesday and was preparing to celebrate when the judges decided otherwise.

The four-time defending Olympic champions were disqualified for impeding, having clicked skates with China just after an exchange with five laps to go.

That gave China its first gold medal in the relay, prompting Wang Meng, Zhou Yang, Sun Linlin and Zhang Hui to jump into the rinkside padding for celebratory hugs with their coaches.

In the excitement, Zhang got cut, causing blood to stream down her face.

The Americans fell out of contention early in the 27-lap race, nearly getting lapped toward the end. But the DQ moved everyone else up, with Canada earning the silver and the United States the bronze.

"That's short track. Anything can happen at any moment," American Lana Gehring said. "You don't know the end result until it's final."

Several minutes went by as the referees conferred while 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 covered her eyes with her left arm.

"I don't have any clue what the referee was saying," Kim said. "It doesn't make any sense at all."

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 5,000-meter long-track speedskating and the luge singles in four consecutive Olympics.

"Blade contact is no reason for a DQ," South Korea women's coach Choi Kwang-bok said, angrily pounding on the pads when informed of the DQ. "I don't understand why they did that."

Choi pointed out that women's referee Jim Hewish of Australia was the same official who disqualified South Korea's Kim Dong-sung to give Apolo Anton Ohno his first career gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Asked if he thought Hewish had a grudge against the South Koreans, Choi answered sharply, "No comment."

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.

The Americans were thrilled to receive the bronze, the first medal won at these Games by the women's short track team.

"All of us went in there thinking, 'We are the strongest team, we are going to be on that podium,' and the way we did it was just a little different than we had expected," Alyson Dudek said. "That doesn't take away from our hard work and dedication."

The Americans' medal was their first in the event since 1994, when they also won bronze.