Olympics - Speed skating - Gao tops three-nation, all-Asian podium in men's 500m
By Sakura Murakami
BEIJING (Reuters) - When China's Gao Tingyu hopped onto the podium at the Beijing Olympics to receive his gold medal in the men's 500 metre speed skating on Saturday, he marked a special moment for Asian sport - and one that could give Chinese speed skating in particular a boost.
Gao was flanked by South Korea's Cha Min Kyu and Japan's Wataru Morishige, completing the first ever Olympic podium involving three different Asian countries in speed skating's shortest event, where the powerhouse Dutch have been less dominant over the years.
The last all-Asian men's 500m podium was in Vancouver, when Korea's Mo Tae-bum took gold and Japanese skaters claimed the silver and bronze.
"That all Asians have won medals - Korea, China and Japan - is very good. I'm happy that Korea is one of them," Cha said after the race.
Asian countries have much more of a foothold in the men's 500m than in other distances, but they still lag behind countries such as the United States and Norway in the medal tally.
Saturday's three-nation podium could trigger more interest in the sport in China, however, where speed skating has struggled to grow - and Gao's record-breaking run will only fuel that interest.
"As the first Chinese gold medal winner of speed skating in men's competition, I have a good start for this sport in China. I think we will be unstoppable in the future. We are not that strong at this moment, so we need to carry on our work," Gao said after his race.
"As a Chinese, you need to walk the talk and fulfil your promises," he added.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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