Arianna Fontana becomes most decorated short track Olympian

In the first short track medal event of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Italy's Arianna Fontana became the most decorated Olympian in short track history. 
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In the first short track medal event of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Italy’s Arianna Fontana became the most decorated Olympian in short track history.

Competing in the Olympic debut of short track speed skating’s mixed gender relay, Fontana and her Italian teams claimed silver, marking Fontana’s ninth career medal. China claimed gold – the host nation’s first medal of any color of these 2022 Beijing Winter Games – while Hungary earned bronze.

Fontana entered the 2022 Winter Olympics tied with American Apolo Ohno and South Korean-turned-Russian Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals in short track history (8).

After the 31-year-old Italian broke the tie on Saturday, Ahn reached out to congratulate her on the achievement.

“He was always a hero and an idol in the sport, so to hear from him ‘congratulations’ and ‘good job’ is something,” she said. “I don’t know how to describe it.”

By competing in Beijing, Fontana also tied the record for Olympic most appearances by a short track skater (5).

Fontana is also expected to be a top threat in the 500m event. She won her heat during Saturday’s prelims and will compete next in the quarterfinal round on Monday (6:30am ET, 7:30pm local).

Fontana made her Olympic debut at the 2006 Torino Games, where – at age 15 – she became the Italy’s youngest-ever Olympic Winter Games medalist by claiming bronze in the women’s 3000m relay. (It is a record she still holds.)

If she wants to break the Italian record for oldest-ever Olympic Winter Games medalist, she will need to keep competing til at least 2030. That record – according to Olympedia.org – is currently held by bobsledder Gerda Weissensteiner, who earned bronze in the two-woman event in 2006.

After competing in PyeongChang, where she won three medals, Fontana took a year-long break from the sport in order to decide whether she wanted to retire or continue competing. It wasn’t the first time she took a break from skating, having taken a similar hiatus following the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

MORE SHORT TRACK NEWS: Arianna Fontana overcomes off-ice turmoil to defend Olympic gold

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC