Patient Perreault clinches surprise short track gold

Picture by IOC / Kishimoto

Canada’s Annie Perreault was a veteran of the short-track circuit. She had taken part in her first Winter Games a decade earlier, when short-track was a demonstration sport, and had won a gold medal in the relay four years later as it was included on the official programme for the first time. However, she missed out on the 1994 Games in Lillehammer through injury and so came to Nagano keen to prove that she was still at the forefront of her sport, and that she could shine in the individual events as well as the relay.

Perreault had given up her job as an accountant in order to concentrate on short-track, and specifically on the 500m. However, she knew that she would be regarded as an outsider in Nagano. The favourite was Chun Lee-Kyung of the Republic of Korea, a three-time world champion. Meanwhile, Chinese pair Yang Yang (A) and Yang Yang (S) were also expected to do well, as was Perreault’s compatriot Isabelle Charest.

Perreault’s underdog status soon proved unwarrantedl. First Yang Yang (A) was disqualified in the quarter-finals, then Chun failed to make the final. And then the final itself, there was a crash between Charest and Wang Chen Lu of China. Suddenly the battle for the gold medal came down to a sprint to the line between Perreault and Yang Yang (S), and it was the Canadian who got there just ahead.

In a curious aside, Charest was disqualified from the final, while Chen Lu stormed away in disgust and so didn't even finish the race. That meant that the bronze medal was instead awarded to Chun, the winner of the B final.

Perreault followed up her shock gold with a bronze in the relay. It was to prove her Olympic farewell, as another serious injury prevented her from returning for the 2002 Winter Games, and she later resumed her earlier career in accountancy.