SOCHI, Feb. 10 -- China made one step closer to defending their Winter Olympic titles at women's 500m and 3,000m relay short track speedskating despite losing injured four-time gold medalist Wang Meng.
All three Chinese competitors in women's 500m, Liu Qiuhong, Li Jianrou and Fan Kexin, have made Thursday's quarterfinals, while China and South Korea set up anticipated rematch of the women's 3,000m relay after the first round/semifinals.
Featuring Fan Kexin, Li Jianrou, Liu Qiuhong and Zhou Yang in the squad, China, who missed the country's most decorated athlete from winter sports Wang Meng here in Sochi, clocked four minutes and 9.555 seconds to top the second semifinal after the first-time Olympian Fan took a very early lead.
South Korea also made the final after topping the first semifinal with a time of 4:08.052.
"We've been trying our best under the principle of keeping in safe, since there're so many ways leading to a victory but an injury could definitely cost it all," said Zhou Yang.
Four years ago in Vancouver, Wang and her teammates cruised to the women's relay final in style but were not granted the victory until South Korea were disqualified due to "dirty play".
Similiar situation happened again on Monday in the second semifinal when Netherlands and Italy took it into action while battling for the second place. The referees later ruled a disqualification penalty against the Dutch team, considering there was contact between Italy's Lucia Peretti and the Netherlands' Sanne van Kerkhof.
Canada, who's the second best from the first semifinal on 4:08.871, will be the other team joining China, South Korea and Italy in the women's 3,000m relay final on Feb. 18.
In the women's 500m qualifications, all the top contenders secured berths to the quarterfinals in three days while the hosts got a painful early lesson on the new false start rules.
The drama happened during the first heat where Russia's Tatiana Borodulina was disqualified for two false starts and China's Liu Qiuhong, who had been sidelined by injury to miss the last Winter Games four years ago, led from the start to qualify first for the quarterfinals.
Less than a month before the start of the Sochi Games, Wang, the 2010 Winter Games' women's 500m, 1,000m and 3,000m relay title holder, sustained a serious ankle injury when she collided with a teammate during a training session in Shanghai.