American teenager Maame Biney, an Olympic rookie at 18, finished last in her short track speedskating quarterfinal of the women's 500 meters Tuesday, missing out on a final that turned into a waiting game.
That result was a photo finish after Italian Arianna Fontana barely edged out hometown hero Choi Min-jeong. Fontana claimed a medal at her fourth different Winter Games, joining Tania Vicent of Canada as the only female short trackers to do so. The referees later assessed a penalty to Choi that shook up the order of finish.
Biney broke out at the 2017 United States Olympic Trials after winning both 500-meter races, and this year became the first African-American woman to make a U.S. Olympic speedskating team.
She had to go up against wily veteran Fan, who along with Russian Sofia Prosvirnova, crowded out Biney as she tried to go for the lead early in the race.
"I'm still in that learning process of just trying to get back really quick because I don't usually get bumped in the start," Biney said. "I'm usually first or second. I'm going to have to figure out how to get back in the rhythm."
The 500 was Biney's only individual event of the games and it left her eager for more.
"Just for next time, the next four years, I'm going to try and find that rhythm and keep going," she said.
In the men's 1,000 heats, American John-Henry Krueger advanced to the quarterfinals by winning his heat and avoiding a collision that knocked down two other skaters.
His teammate, J.R. Celski, wasn't so lucky.
The three-time Olympian was taken down in a three-man crash and he needed repair work on his right skate. Pavel Sitnikov, the Russian who caused the pileup, was penalized for impeding.
That left Celski and two other skaters to compete in the re-start. Celski was in contention early before finishing third, one spot out of advancing to the next round on Saturday.
Krueger and Celski later teamed with Thomas Hong and Aaron Tran for the 5,000 relay heats. They finished third, relegating the U.S. to the B final four years after earning silver in Sochi. That medal represented the only podium finish for the American speedskaters — long track or short track — in a stunning showing.
Among the big names advancing to the 1,000 quarterfinals on Saturday were 1,500 champion Lim Hyo-jun and teammates Hwang Dae-heon and Seo Yira of South Korea, Sjinkie Knegt and Liu Shaolin Sandor of Hungary, Wu Dajing of China, Charles Hamelin of Canada and Russian Semen Elistratov.
Knegt earned silver and Elistratov took bronze in the 1,500.
In the men's 5,000 relay, China, Canada, South Korea and Hungary advanced to the Feb. 22 final.