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(LEAD) Host S. Korea looking to extend short track dominance at worlds

All Headlines 17:21 March 07, 2016

(ATT: ADDS comments in paras 6-8, photo)

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will look to extend its dominance in short track speed skating when it hosts the sport's world championships this week.

The International Skating Union (ISU) World Short Track Speed Skating Championships will be held from Friday to Sunday at Mokdong Ice Rink in the nation's capital. South Korea is staging the competition for the third time.

Choi Min-jeong, a 17-year-old sensation, is the defending women's overall champion and will try to become the first South Korean since Jin Sun-yu (2005-2007) to repeat as the world champion.

In just her second senior season, Choi has been even more dominant than in her first. She ended the ISU World Cup season as the overall leader in the 1,000m and the 1,500m, and helped South Korea win the overall title in the 3,000m relay. Choi picked up 11 gold medals -- three more than last season -- and won at least one race at five of the six World Cup stops.

Shim Suk-hee, an Olympic relay gold medalist and the 2014 world overall champion, finished third overall in the 1,000m and second in the 1,500m during the World Cup season. She missed the final two World Cup stops with an infection in her left foot but picked up eight gold medals at the first four World Cups.

At the pre-competition press conference, Shim said she's fully recovered from her injury and is ready to hit the ice again.

"I've not been sharp after missing two World Cups, but I've been watching a lot of race footage to get ready," she said. "After the pain subsided, I ratcheted up the intensity of my training to get back in shape."

Shim said she couldn't train properly while battling her infection and that she had to remain on "a strict diet" to keep her weight down.

On the men's side, South Korea hasn't had an overall champion since Sin Da-woon in 2013. Sin's title was the fifth straight by a South Korean skater, but Victor An of Russia -- born Ahn Hyun-soo in South Korea -- ended the streak in 2014, and Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands won his first world title in 2015.

Kwak Yoon-gy, the 2012 world champion and an Olympic silver medalist in 2010, will try to start a new streak for South Korea. He was the men's 1,500m overall leader at the World Cup.

While South Korea overwhelmed the women's competition, there was more parity among men. Two different Russian skaters, Dmitry Migunov and Semen Elistratov, finished first overall in the 500m and 1,000m, respectively.

Trailing Migunov in the 500m were two Canadians, Charles Hamelin and Samuel Girard. Hamelin finished third in the 1,000m, right below countryman Charle Cournoyer.

Canada was the top relay team, followed by the Netherlands and China.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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