Feb. 13 (UPI) — Arianna Fontana won Italy’s first gold medal of the 2018 Winter Olympics Tuesday in Pyeongchang with a victory in the 500m short track speed skating event.
Fontana, Italy’s flag-bearer at the Games’ opening ceremony, beat the Netherlands’ Yara Van Kerkhof in a photo finish.
South Korea’s Minjeong Choi, who set an Olympic record, was disqualified but had already been beaten by Fontana.
It was Fontana’s first Olympic gold after a silver and four bronzes in previous Games.
“It has been a long journey, more beautiful than I had imagined it,” said Fontana after doing a lap of honor in tears, draped in the Italian flag. “It is a gold I had been hunting for years, a stupendous sensation to cross the line ahead of the Korean on her home ground.
“I want to thank the CONI, the federation and my family, I think my father must have had a heart attack. I thank my husband Anthony and all those who supported me. I’m happy, because I beat the Korean, disqualification or not.”
Premier Paolo Gentiloni said Fontana had been “great.” Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) President Giovanni Malagò said Fontana “won with confidence, personality and determination.”
“It was an impressive race, and winning something as a flag-carrier is very important,” Malagò said. “You have to go back a good few years, to Lillehammer in 1994, with Deborah Compagnoni.”
“It’s my first winter gold, I’m really very happy,” the CONI chief said.