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Korean's speedskating win overshadowed by resurfacing problem

South Korea's Mo Tae-Bum takes a victory lap. (John Mahoney / Canwest News Service / MCT)
South Korea's Mo Tae-Bum takes a victory lap. (John Mahoney / Canwest News Service / MCT)

RICHMOND, British Columbia — The 2010 Winter Olympic version of the fastest event in speedskating is likely to be remembered mostly for how long it took to complete.

A victory by Tae-Bum Mo of Korea was overshadowed by problems with ice-resurfacing machines at the Richmond Olympic Oval that caused about a 70-minute delay between the first two sessions of the first flight of races.

That meant an event that started at 3:30 p.m. didn't end until close to 8, with some skaters going roughly three hours between races.

After the initial lengthy delay, American coach Derek Parra said "coaches (from many countries) got together and thought it wasn't a fair race anymore, (and) there was going to be controversy. There will be controversy."

For Mo, though, there was only happiness, winning the gold for South Korea in the 500 on the day he turned 21 in a time of 69.82 seconds.

Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato of Japan finished second and third, respectively. The highest American placer was Tucker Fredricks, who finished 12th.

Fredricks, a native of Janesville, Wis., had a bobble out of the start in his first of two races (each skater races the event twice and the times are added with the fastest combined time winning) and a stumble out of the first turn to fall out of contention.

Fredricks, who skated after the ice delay, said "it was just a bad race for me" and that the ice "is not my excuse."

The ice, though, will be what gets the attention as it was the latest problem for a Vancouver Winter Olympics filled with issues in and out of competition.

One of two ice-resurfacing machines broke down during Sunday's women's 5,000 race, leaving just one for Monday's event. That one had issues during regular resurfacing following the first half of the first session.

Parra said the machine left "little ridges on the ice."

"When you're going 35 miles an hour, you want to have contact with the ice," he said. "It would have been too dangerous at that point."

A third resurfacing machine, not intended for use, was tried before the original machine was fixed enough to get the job done.

Olympic officials announced after the event that a propane-powered Zamboni was being shipped in from Calgary.

Some skaters said it was surprising to see such problems at an Olympics.

"I was quite shocked that they had an issue," said American Nick Pearson, who finished 26th. "I don't know if it's their environmentally friendly ice-resurfacing machines or what."

Electric resurfacing machines were being used instead of traditional Zambonis.

Parra also wondered if the limited ice time foreign competitors received prior to the Games might have meant there weren't enough dry runs of the resurfacing equipment.

The 26-year-old Fredricks said he wished he could blame the ice. Rated No. 4 in the world, he had hoped to atone for a 25th place finish in 2006.

American Shani Davis finished 18th in the first round then pulled out. He said he wanted to concentrate on the 1,000 on Wednesday.

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