Short track speed skating seems like it was invented just last Olympics, but it has actually been a part of the Olympic program since 1992, and was a demonstration sport as far back as 1984. The "pack-style" start was actually used in 1932, but as speed skating rules became codified to the long track, short track speed skating existed on the sport's fringes for decades before finally get recognized as its own sport.
As befitting its underdog stature, short track is dominated by nations who don't win much else in the Winter Games. South Korea is the undisputed king of the sport, but China is also a major power. OK, the two North American winter nations are also real good at this sport, as the pack start used to be known as the North American style. Now, it is distinctly Asian.
The sport is a total blast, and it just doesn't seem quite real. Just about every heat ends with someone crashing into the wall, and the final finish seems to be random, yet the same guys are always winning. Avoiding the carnage is every bit of a skill as speed.
While long track speed skating seems so graceful and dignified, short track is a barroom brawl. There are some rules about cutting people off and body contact, but after watching a day's worth of action, I couldn't tell you what those rules are. They appear to be arbitrarily applied, to no one's great consternation. Skaters just seem to shrug it off and say "That's short track."
Which is sort of why the sport is awesome.
The Favorites: South Korea
South Korea is so awesome at short track that the Russian's best hope for a medal in the men's 1500 is a guy who defected from South Korea. Ahn Hyun-soo has become Vicktor Ahn, and he's trying to win Russia's first medal in the sport, and become the rarest of athletes: one who has medaled for two different nations.
The Gold Medal: Canada
Look, if you can't hate Canada during the Winter Olympics, when can you? This is the time to bust out a rivalry that should totally exist, but really doesn't. We need to stop treating Canada as our friendly neighbors. They are our poutine eating enemies. At least once every four years. Come on, people. Let's blame Canada.
England, a country more well-known for losing soccer matches, had a surprise racer in the finals. Not used to the spotlight, Jack Whelbourne lived up to England's reputation and crashed out by hitting a lane marker. This caused him to skid across the path of American hopeful, JR Celski, disrupting his momentum. Hamelin took advantage and went to the line. Celski finished fourth, out of the medals. Did he think it was unfair? Nope, a crash was how he won a medal four years ago.
That's just short track.
We're still a day away. Canada is the pre-tourney favorites, but experts are describing the Russian team as enigmatic. I'm picking Sweden for the gold, because Henrik Lundqvist is really good at hockey. And in a short tournament, I pick the best goalie. Let's see.
Next Sport: Speed Skating