Arianna Fontana overcomes off-ice turmoil to defend Olympic gold

Short Track Speed Skating - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 3
Getty Images

Two days after becoming the most decorated short track Olympian, Italy’s Arianna Fontana added her 10th career medal by winning the women’s 500m final.

Fontana, the defending Olympic champion, made a late pass to overtake reigning world champion Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands. She crossed the line at Capital Indoor Arena in 42.488 seconds and let out a yell.

“Making the pass at the end, I thought, ‘It is now or never’ and went for it,” Fontana said. “Even though I didn’t start first, I knew I had to stay focused. There is still time to recover. I was able to make enough speed and attack at the right moment.”

Schulting took silver in 42.559 and Kim Boutin of Canada, the world record holder, earned bronze in 42.724.

The same three countries made up the podium – in the same order – four years ago in PyeongChang, with Fontana and Boutin claiming gold and bronze, and a different Dutch athlete – Yara van Kerkhof – winning silver.

Fontana, 31, now owns 10 Olympic medals, including four in the 500m: bronze from 2010, silver from 2014, and gold from 2018 and 2022.

She 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.)

Away from the on-ice chaos of short track, Fontana has also dealt with turmoil within the Italian federation. In July 2020, a disagreement with the federation caused her to relocate to Budapest, Hungary, in order to train alongside the Hungarian national team.

“Me and my family had to go through a bad situation, people that didn’t want me here. My federation wasn’t supportive,” she said.

“They didn’t want me having my husband as a coach, but today we proved he was the best possible coach. They didn’t help, in fact they tried to find ways that we wouldn’t be here at all. It was tough.”

MORE SHORT TRACK COVERAGE: Arianna Fontana becomes most decorated short track Olympian

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC