Ohno ties Blair for most American Winter Games medals
Short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno pulled out a silver in
the 1,500-meter final to tie Bonnie Blair for most medals won by a
U.S. Winter Olympian.
Ohno, who now has two medals of each color, moved past Eric
Heiden as the most decorated American male at the Winter Games and
also claimed the mark for most short track medals since the
wild-and-wooly sport joined the Olympic program in 1992.
Boxed out by the South Koreans, with all hope of a medal
appearing lost, Ohno could only count on the freakishness of short
track to pull it out.
When two skaters ahead of him went sliding into the padding,
Ohno stuck his skate across the line and Olympic medal No. 6 was
The American who made the soul patch fashionable — even
the women were wearin’ em — took the silver when two South
Koreans took each other out on the final turn.
Korea still got the gold, which went to Lee Jung-su, out front
and out of the trouble that gobbled up his teammates. But Ohno had
no complaints about being the runner-up, especially when he was
fourth with just a few meters to go. It didn’t hurt to see
19-year-old American teammate J.R. Celski right behind, taking
bronze in his first major event since a gruesome crash at the U.S.
“That last two laps was pretty intense. There was a lot of
bumping, a lot of contact,” Ohno said. “This is what this sport is
Heiden, now the team doctor for U.S. Speedskating,
told The Associated Press he was “glued to the television” while
working in the training room at the Olympic Village.
“The thing that really sets him apart is he’s been doing this
for a number of years,” Heiden said when reached on his cell phone.
“We’ve learned to appreciate what dedication and hard work he’s had
to put in. He’s a product of both those things.”
Ohno grabbed an American flag, though he had to put it under one
arm when he held up his fingers for the crowd — all five on
the left hand and another on the right.
Make it six, and he has three more events at the Vancouver Games
to pass Blair.
“I’ve come prepared, more than I’ve ever prepared for anything
in my life,” Ohno said. “I’m in a very, very good place. Obviously,
I know I have six medals now and I have no regrets about this
entire Olympic Games experience. This is going to stay with me for
the rest of my life.”
Ohno eliminated Canadian favorite Charles Hamelin in the
semifinals with a daring inside move, drawing groans from many of
the red-clad fans in the packed house of 14,200 at Pacific
Coliseum. But there was still plenty of red-white-and-blue cheering
for the 27-year-old American, who is practically a hometown
favorite at these games.
Vancouver is just a three-hour drive north of suburban Seattle,
where Ohno was born and raised by a single father, getting his
start in skating with wheels under his feet rather than blades.
“I just feel so blessed to be here, healthy, competing,” he
said. “It feels like home soil to me. We just have so much support
in the crowd.”
When he saw Olympic short track for the first time on TV, Ohno
decided that’s what he wanted to do. Clearly, the ice suited him
No sport is more unpredictable than short track, either.
Ohno won his first medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when a
crash on the final turn took out every skater but one, Australia’s
Steven Bradbury, who coasted across the line as perhaps the
flukiest gold medalist ever. Ohno, his leg gashed by a skate blade,
crawled across the line for a silver.
Talk about symmetry.
Ohno’s sixth medal was claimed under similar circumstances,
though this time he didn’t have to spill any blood. The powerful
South Koreans put three skaters in the final, and it looked as
though they would sweep the medals when all of them shot ahead of
Ohno on the final lap.
“Myself and everybody here thought it was finished and done
with,” Heiden said. “Typical short track. It’s never over ’til it’s
over. It’s sort of deja vu with what happened in Salt Lake City
Ohno nearly crashed when he got tangled up with Sung Si-bak,
actually sticking out his right arm to fend off the South Korean
— and perhaps keep himself up as he stumbled. Once Ohno
regained his balance, it looked as though the Koreans were
Then came the final turn.
Lee was out front and avoided trouble. But Lee Ho-suk cut in on
Sung while trying to set up a last-second pass on Lee, and they
both slid into the padded barrier, their medal hopes dashed in a
heap. Ohno skated right on by, as did Celski.
Heiden didn’t feel too bad about giving up his record. His five
medals were nothing but gold, all won in a sweep of the long-track
events at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
“I’ve never thought of it as a contest,” Heiden said. “I just
look at Apolo as a great skater, and also a good friend, someone
I’ve been able to spend some time with. I’m very happy with what
Heiden skated short track before it was an Olympic sport.
He gave it up after breaking his left leg in a crash when he was
“That was it,” Heiden said, chuckling. “I told myself, ‘That’s
enough of this stuff.'”
Ohno kept right on going.
Right on past Heiden, it turned out.