Miami’s Eddy Alvarez and his U.S. short track speedskating teammates survived a wild crash in the 5,000-meter relay semifinals at the Winter Olympics to advance to next week’s final, where they have an improved chance of winning a medal due to the misfortune of the top two teams.
The U.S. skaters had to wait after crossing the finish line last of four teams to find out if the referee would rule in their favor. He did, deciding upon video review that South Korea’s Ho-Suk Lee interfered with Alvarez when Alvarez tried to pass.
South Korea, silver medalist in 2010, was disqualified and the U.S. was waved onward to the Feb. 21 showdown. Defending gold medalist Canada crashed out in the other semifinal.
“It was a very stressful three minutes,” Alvarez said of the wait. “I’m extremely relieved. Now we have to skate to our potential in the final. We have to let the tiger out of the cage.”
Alvarez was accelerating through a turn with four laps to go in the 3.1-mile race when he hit Lee’s arm. Both skaters slipped, fell and tumbled into the pads.
“I got a real good exchange from Jordan [Malone] and came in hard,” Alvarez said. “Unfortunately, he [Lee] held his hand out there and I clipped it and went down. I’m glad the referee saw it. Sometimes those calls can go against you.”
South Korean skater Da Woo Sin concurred with the decision.
“We moved into them,” he said. “It wasn’t the Americans’ fault. There was a mix-up with our signals. It’s a pity.”
Alvarez, 23, a Miami Columbus High graduate, also advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1,000 meters with a second-place finish in his heat. Alvarez placed behind triple gold medalist Charles Hamelin of Canada with a time of 1:26.070, holding off Great Britain’s Jack Whelbourne by .016.
The remaining rounds and final of the 1,000 will be held Saturday at Iceberg Skating Palace.
Alvarez’s relay teammates J.R. Celski and Chris Creveling also advanced, as did favorite Victor Ahn, formerly of South Korea, now skating for Russia.
Alvarez also competes in the 500 meters – which he considers his strongest event – next week.