The Winter Youth Olympic Games were held in Gangwon, South Korea last month and only now are we learning about one of the most incredible moments to happen in speed skating — ever.
Yang Jinru of China was competing in the final of the women’s 1500m short track when she turned the whole sport on its head.
To understand what happened you need to have some knowledge of the pacing of speed skating in a 1500m. Nobody is going flat out as fast as they can all race, so like most distance events it’s about managing the pack and then sprinting all out in the final six laps of the race.
The gun goes off, everything looks methodical and normal, before Yang decides to blow past everyone at full speed. She takes the outside so quickly the pack elects not to try and keep up with her, so they hang back. Now, we’ve seen skaters go all-out before, but normally they burn out and are gassed before the race picks up.
What Yang did instead was choose to just lap everyone, then rejoin the pack in the back and match their slow pace. Call it the pressure of the moment, a disruption to the typical order of the sport, or just a brain fart — but seemingly the rest of the field totally forgot that Yang had lapped them. To make things even more confusing, officials called out the laps remaining based off Yang as the skater in first, not the pack.
So, when they called “three laps remaining” everyone but Yang had four. When they announced “final lap” it only applied to Yang. Staying in the back in first place not only meant she won when everyone else thought they were done, but her teammate Li Jinzi knew that Yang was a lap ahead, so she easily overtook the pack on their final lap to bring home silver.
This is one of the most baller moves a speed skater has ever pulled off, and it’s incredible that it worked.