Luck is always a factor.
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In long-track speedskating, where athletes compete for the best time rather than against each other for place, it's all about being the fastest. Short track is a bit more complicated, though, and strategy is as important as technical chops in deciding who takes home the gold. And because athletes frequently contact each other and can alter each other's game plan, they are more subject to chance, which plays a significant factor in every heat. "It's not always the fastest, strongest guys that win," Jayner says.

While the idea that dumb luck plays such a prominent role in short track would frustrate a lot of world-class athletes, it doesn't bother Jayner at all. To the contrary, he feels it's part of his sport's allure. "That's why short track is so amazing and insane all at the same time," he says. "There are so many different variables."