SOCHI, Feb. 15 -- China's short track speed skater Zhou Yang successfully defended her 1500-meter Olympic title at the Sochi Winter Games on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Zhou skated near the front during the race and avoided a three-skater crash in mid-race. She overtook South Korean Shim Suk Hee to take the lead approaching the final lap and finished first in two minutes 19.140 seconds, while Shim, runner-up of the event at the 2013 World Championships, took the silver in 2:19.239. Italian veteran Arianna Fontana came in third in 2:19.416.
"One Olympic gold medal (in the women's 1,500m) is not enough for me," said Zhou, winner of the women's 1,500m and 3,000m relay gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games. "All my efforts are paid off now."
"It was a tough competition. All the races, from the heats to the final, were all difficult as I wanted to catch all the chances," added Zhou, who was also the fastest in the semifinals.
It was the second gold medal for China's short track team at Sochi without four-time Olympic champion Wang Meng, who suffered an ankle injury before the Olympics.
"We didn't lose our confidence although we are without Wang," said Li Yan, head coach of the Chinese team. "Zhou went through a difficult four years but the result was good."
Zhou had been in a slump of her career after the 2010 Vancouver Games and she was called back to the China's national team until the end of 2012. The 22-year-old made a big progress after her return. She ranked 21st in the 1,500m at the World Cup last season but improved to the third place this season.
"I had thought about giving up during the recent four years," Zhou said. "But I really love skating. I want to say thank you to those people who have been in my support."
"The two gold medals are so different to me," she said. "The first gold in Vancouver was like a dream come true, and this one, after four years, is the reward of my efforts. I went through a lot in the four years."
Less than a month before the start of the Sochi Games, Wang Meng, the country's most decorated athlete from winter sports, sustained a serious ankle injury when she collided with a teammate during a training session in Shanghai and had to miss the Olympic Games.
"Wang texted me before my race and she gave me courage," Zhou said.
Dutch skater Jorien ter Mors finished fourth while China's Li Jianrou, South Korea's Kim Alang and American Emily Scott all fell midway through the race.
Li won China's first gold in Sochi Wednesday in the women's 500m.