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From frustration to elation: Boutin's bronze caps wild day for Canadian short track speed skaters

Kim Boutin of Canada reacts after winning the bronze medal in the ladies' 500 meters short track speedskating final in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Bernat Armangue/AP Photo

Short-track speed skating giveth, and short-track speed skating taketh away.

There's no other way to explain what happened to Canada during the 500m race in Pyeongchang on Tuesday when a surprized Kim Boutin won bronze, and a frustrated Marianne St-Gelais saw her gold medal chance dashed.

For a sport contested on a flat sheet of ice, what transpired on Tuesday was a reminder of its remarkable ups and downs.

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Skating in the final, Boutin crossed the finish line in fourth place, and figured that was it. But moments later, a judges' decision to disqualify a South Korean skater elevated her to third – and onto the podium with a bronze medal.

"I'm like, okay what happened? Where am I?" an elated Boutin said afterward. "So it was a surprise of course."

If she was struggling to process the moment, she could be forgiven. Only a few hours earlier, the Canadian team was dealt a blow when gold-medal favourite Marianne St-Gelais was disqualified during her quarter-final race in a decision that left them stunned.

Seconds into the race, St-Gelais was whistled for impeding another skater, which she thought meant the race would be restarted. Instead, the judges reviewed the tape and issued a disqualification, ending her shot at a gold medal in the event she won silver in at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

St-Gelais struggled to explain the call. Though penalties for impeding opponents are common in short-track, when they happen so early in the race it typically results in a restart. St-Gelais also figured she was free and clear of Dutch rival Yara Van Kerkhof when the fall happened.

"I knew I needed to have a good start, which I had. I was ahead of the girl. She fell, and I've been called," St-Gelais said. "I'm not happy with the decision."

Boutin, 23, who is skating in her first Olympics and counts St-Gelais, 27, as a mentor, also struggled to see why the ruling was made. "I've never seen that before," she said. "It's really sad."

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When an exhausted Boutin crossed the finish line in the final, though, it was St-Gelais who grabbed her and told her to stay on the ice. The veteran had seen something in the race that suggested another disqualification was imminent.

"Marianne told me, 'You stay here. So maybe she knew that something was going to happen," Boutin said.

After a short delay, the judges penalized South Korea's Choi Minjeong, much to the dismay of the hometown crowd. The ruling put Boutin on the podium, redeeming the race for the Canadians.

"It takes a lot for her to be there and to celebrate the medal with me. Because I know she also really wanted this medal. She really deserved the gold medal," Boutin said. "She's my inspiration."

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