Katherine Reutter was upset at herself, angry and, finally sad.
That is why the short-track speedskater answered, “I’ll be crying,” to describe how she will deal with her fourth-place finish in Saturday’s Olympic 1,500 meters.
Reutter, 21, didn’t expect that having her parents around to console her would make it any easier.
“They traveled all the way to Vancouver to see a fourth place,” she said.
And then the tears started dripping down her cheeks.
“The whole goal was just not to make any mistakes,” Reutter said. “If I didn’t make any mistakes, trying my best would have been good enough to get top three in this race. I gave my best, but I messed up.”
This was the race in which Reutter had her best chance to become the first U.S. woman to win an individual Olympic medal in short track since Cathy Turner in 1994.
“I honestly believed I had enough in me to win today,” she said.
Her last chance at an individual medal will be the 1,000 meters. Competition begins Wednesday. She finished seventh in the 500 last week.
“It will make me stronger, and I’ll learn from it,” Reutter, from Champaign, Ill., said.
Reutter survived a fall in the semifinal that could have left her disqualified. Instead, it wound up knocking the sport’s biggest female star, Wang Meng of China, out of a final won by 1,500-meter favorite Zhou Yang of China with Lee Eun-Byul of South Korea second.
In the final, Reutter made the same mistake, a risky inside move, that had led to the semifinal incident in which she, Wang, and South Korea’s Cho Ha-Ri all fell.
The referee determined Wang, who had won the 500 last week, was at fault and advanced Reutter and Cho to the final.
Reutter insisted the idea of winning a medal without having to beat Wang did not distract her.
“She’s a 500 skater,” Reutter said of Wang. “I’m a 1,500 skater. I respect her for being the best short tracker in the world, but this was my race.”
In the final, the mistake happened with seven laps of the race’s 13 laps to go, when Reutter tried to move inside eventual bronze medalist Park Seung-Hi of South Korea.
Their skates clicked, and, after pushing Park from behind, Reutter dropped all the way to last.
Reutter said her briefly easing off was not a reaction to the idea she might be disqualified.
“I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, shoot, there it goes,’ ” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Katherine, how could you let that mistake happen?’
“An inside move at the Olympics against any Asian skater is risky.”