GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Short-track speedskating is wildly popular in South Korea and the Olympic host country had reason to celebrate on the first night of racing.
Lim Hyo-jun won the crash-filled men's 1,500-meter final, giving South Korea its first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games on Saturday. He raised his arms in triumph and let out a yell as the capacity crowd roared its approval.
Lim surged past Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands and finished about two blade lengths ahead in an Olympic-record of 2 minutes, 10.485 seconds.
Knegt earned silver while bronze went to Semen Elistratov, who became the first Russian medalist of the games.
Russia was banned from the Olympics for a massive doping scheme four years ago in Sochi, but Elistratov is among 168 competitors allowed in as "Olympic Athletes from Russia."
Defending Olympic champion Charles Hamelin of Canada was penalized for impeding.
Lim beat out eight rivals in the final, which had three extra skaters after some were advanced because of penalties in the semifinals. Knegt patted Lim on his helmet after the two crossed the finish line.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife watched the competition at Gangneung Ice Arena with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, although they left before Lim's victory.
Lim wasn't even the strongest South Korean skater in the final. Hwang Dae-heon led the World Cup rankings after having won most of his 1,500 races this season, but he crashed. The other South Korean, Seo Yira, was relegated to the B final.
Elistratov is on a much diminished Russian short-track team, after several skaters were refused invitations by the International Olympic Committee, which said it couldn't be confident they weren't involved in doping.
The IOC invited only three Russian men's skaters, meaning Elistratov can't compete in the 5,000-meter relay. He was on the four-man team that won that event at home four years ago in Sochi.
Elistratov has said he sought advice from his wife, parents and coach before deciding to accept the IOC's invitation to go to Pyeongchang. He was cleared of a doping offense in 2016 after he tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Elistratov was forced to miss that year's world championships before his suspension was lifted when the World Anti-Doping Agency issued an amnesty for athletes with low concentrations of the Latvian-made heart drug.
Meldonium had been banned in January 2016, two months before Elistratov's failed test, and WADA admitted it wasn't sure how long the drug could stay in the body, even if athletes had stopped taking it before it was prohibited.
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova served a 15-month suspension, though, because she had taken meldonium after it was banned.