Road to Beijing 2022 weekend wrap up featuring Big Air, alpine skiing, figure skating and short track

The first weekend of full-on winter sports action leading into this Olympic Winter Games season was chock full of excitable athletes, thrilled to be back competing in front of big crowds and the added anticipation of Beijing 2022. Olympics.com takes you through a bite-size catch-up of the weekend’s events.

By Jo Gunston

Short track speed skating
21-24 October 2021
Beijing, People's Republic of China

The ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating season got off to a thrilling start at Beijing's Capital Indoor Stadium – the venue for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Short Track events, which start 4 February.

In the women’s 1500m final short track powerhouse Republic of Korea appeared to be cruising to a clean sweep until team-mates Kim Jiyoo and Choi Minjeong crashed into each other on the final corner. Compatriot Lee Yubin moved up to first place with Canada’s Courtney Sarault and the USA’s Kristen Santos claiming silver and bronze, respectively.

“I feel sorry for them (Kim and Choi), but I’m also really happy with the result. The team has been really supportive and I’ve worked hard to be in my best form at this competition,” Lee said.

There was plenty of drama in the women’s 500m final too, as Poland’s Natalia Maliszewska gave away her lead after crashing. However, the 2019 European champion in this discipline got another chance when the race was restarted following another crash shortly after. This time Maliszewska kept her lead from start to finish with Italy’s Arianna Fontana in second, and Choi Minjeong, third.

“I know how fast I am, but it wasn’t exactly full gas anymore after the crash. I think I cut my nose and I was also feeling a bit dizzy, but I was still fast enough to win the race,” said Maliszewska.

Saturday night drama in the women’s 3,000m relay semi-finals, saw the Netherlands break their own world record, beating their previous world’s best set at PyeongChang 2018. There were muted feelings from the team though as the previous record was set with their late team-mate Lara Van Ruijven, who died in 2020 after falling ill during a training camp.

“I’ve also got a bit of mixed feelings,” said Suzanne Schulting afterwards, “because we set the previous record together with Lara… That was a beautiful race which I’ve fond memories of, but today we also showed that we’re very strong. I’m really proud of our effort.”

After a restarted race, in which he himself crashed out, Russian skater Semen Elistratov took the men’s 1500m gold. An Kai from People’s Republic of China and Belgium’s Stijn Desmet stormed to a blistering start but couldn’t hold on to their pace with Elistratov and Kazakhstan’s Adil Galiakhmetov coming through to take gold and silver, respectively.

“After the crash I thought, oh my god we need to go again,” said Elistratov. “My legs were feeling really tired but the hard work I put into training has paid off.”

Hungary’s Shaolin Sandor Liu led from the start, winning the men’s 500m event, making it a one-two with compatriot John-Henry Krueger. Kazakhstan’s Denis Nikisha took bronze.

“It’s always a really special thing to stand on the podium together," said Liu. "Whether that’s with my brother [Shaoang Liu] or with John. Hopefully by winning here it will bring me good luck for Beijing 2022.”

Schulting, the reigning world and Olympic champion in the women’s 1,000m, produced a strong performance in this event to win gold on Sunday. Italy’s seven-time overall European champ Fontana took the early lead but ended up battling with Republic of Korea’s Kim and America’s Kristen Santos for the remaining spots on the podium with Kim (silver) and Santos (bronze) winning out in the end.

“I knew that I was going to be the one to beat coming into this final. And after my crash in the 1500m (on Thursday), I had to set things right as well. This win feels amazing, I’m very happy,” said Schulting.

The men’s 1000m final proved to be a tactical one, with five skaters jostling for position for much of the race. World record holder, Hwang Daeheon from Republic of Korea came out on top after making his way through the pack.

“I’m very happy to win a gold medal here at the test event for Beijing 2022. It shows that I’m in good form with the Olympics approaching,” Hwang said afterwards.

Republic of Korea and People’s Republic of China battled hard in the mixed 2,000m relay event but it was the soon-to-be Olympic hosts who came out on top securing the gold medal in world record time at Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium, venue for February’s Winter Olympics Short Track events. Republic of Korea finished second, with Italy third.

“Relay is a team sport, everyone tried to do her part to the best. We have one heart, we fought together and won gold, which makes me feel thrilled,” said China's Guo Yihan.

People’s Republic of China also won a thrilling women’s 3,000m relay pipping the Netherlands by just 0.0084 of a second. The Koreans took bronze.

In the men’s 5,000m relay Olympic champions Hungary and European title holders the Netherlands battled it out for gold. With just 10 laps to go, the Netherlands took the lead and held on to take gold. Italy took bronze after the home side were relegated by judges to fourth.

"It was a chaotic final,” said the Netherlands' Sjinkie Knegt,” but we managed to triumph in the end. Rule number one in short track is to stay on your feet, so we got to battle it out with Hungary. This is a great start towards qualification for the Olympic Games.”

Alpine skiing
23-24 October 2021
Soelden, Austria

An excitable crowd waited in anticipation at the bottom of the slope in Soelden, Austria to see how the first alpine skiing World Cup battle of the 2021-22 season would play out over the weekend.

Those showing form at the beginning of this Winter Games season were the USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin who looked back to her best following a tough couple of years, winning the women’s Giant Slalom in a tight battle with Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami. Read the full review here.

The Austrian crowd were desperate for a home winner but it was their arch-rivals Switzerland who came out on top in the men's event as Marco Odermatt topped the podium beating Roland Leitinger into second. Slovenia’s Zan Kranjec rounded off the podium in third. Read the full report here.

Figure skating
23-24 October 2021

Las Vegas, USA

Vincent Zhou sealed an unexpected win at the Skate America competition ahead of pre-event favourite and US teammate Nathan Chen, who had to be content with a rare third-place finish. Japan's Uno Shoma the reigning Olympic silver medallist, finished second. Read the report here.

The Russian team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov sealed gold by a distance in the pairs event with their compatriots Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii coming third. Miura Riku and Kihara Ryuichi of Japan came second. Read more here.

Big Air – snowboard and skiing
23 October 2021
Chur, Switzerland

The energy of the crowd in the first Big Air event with fans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic offered a crackle of intensity to the first freestyle skiing and snowboarding World Cup of the 2021-22 season.

The Chur, Switzerland-hosted event on Friday (23 October) saw Austrian teenager Matej Svancer coming out on top in the freestyle skiing Big Air competition with a jaw-dropping score of 99.00. In the women’s event, another teen, France’s Tess Ledeux beat the pre-event favourite from the home nation, Sarah Hoefflin.

Meanwhile, another teen phenom, Japanese Big Air prodigy Kokomo Murase, 16, won the women’s snowboarding event, while the only non-teen gold medallist of the weekend was 26-year-old Jonas Boesiger, who won the men’s edition.

Read the full round up here.

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