Ohno’s 7th medal tops among US Winter Olympians
Apolo Anton Ohno made history the hard way, overcoming a rare
mistake that dropped him to last place before rallying to earn his
record seventh Olympic medal.
Ohno overtook two skaters on the last lap of the 1,500-meter
short track final Saturday night for a bronze, surpassing
long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S.
“I was never looking for that label,” he said. “But I’m not
going to lie. The way you guys say it sounds really, really
The 27-year-old skater from Seattle has two gold, two silver and
three bronze medals in three Olympics. Ohno already earned a silver
in the 1,500 last weekend. That tally edges Blair’s five golds and
a bronze in three Olympics from 1988 to 1994.
“I’m very happy for Apolo’s accomplishment,” Blair said in a
statement from Pacific Coliseum, where she was on hand to watch the
race. “It’s a great feat for him, US Speedskating, and the United
States of America.”
Also cheering him on was Michael Phelps, whose eight gold medals
in swimming highlighted the Beijing Games and gave him 14 career
Ohno, whose medals are the most of any short-track skater, threw
his head back, closed his eyes and let out his breath in relief
after he crossed the finish line, having skated near the back of
the pack early in the nine-lap race. He briefly moved up to second,
then dropped to last after slipping in the turn despite no contact
from the other skaters with three laps remaining, forcing his rally
near the end.
“When I moved up into second place, in my head I thought that
the race was mine and I felt great,” he said. “Then I slipped and
lost all my speed again. I saw everybody flying by me and I’m like,
‘Oh boy, there’s not a lot of time. I’m going to have to kind of
crank it up.”’
Lee Jung-su of South Korea won his second gold in Vancouver and
teammate Lee Ho-suk earned the silver. The Koreans claimed four of
the six short track medals awarded Saturday.
In the women’s 1,500 final, Zhou Yang of China easily won the
gold medal. Lee Eun-byul of South Korea took silver, and teammate
Park Seung-hi earned bronze.
Ohno’s mistake cost him a chance at gold and silver, but he came
flying by Canadian brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin on the
final lap to grab a spot on the podium.
“I had to basically dig deep and find extra speed, extra
strength to be able to pass those two Canadian skaters,” he said.
“To me it shows me that I definitely earned it.”
Ohno was up against the powerful South Koreans and the Canadian
brothers, who led the early laps. Working together, neither duo
gave an inch and Ohno was left scrambling after his slip.
He eased through the quarterfinals and semifinals without any of
the usual calamities that make short track so unpredictable.
The final lacked the drama of Ohno’s first race, the 1,500, in
which he claimed silver and teammate J.R. Celski took bronze after
Koreans Lee Ho-suk and Sung Si-bak crashed in the final turn. Lee
Jung-su won that race, too.
Celski was disqualified for causing Francois Hamelin to crash in
their 1,000 semifinal, and Hamelin was advanced to the final.
On the podium, a smiling Ohno put his right arm around Lee
Jung-su as they posed for photos, no hint of the animosity the
Koreans felt toward Ohno after the 1,500.
Ohno believed there should have been a disqualification after he
and Sung tangled, an insinuation that infuriated Lee Jung-su.
Their dislike for Ohno dates back to the 2002 Salt Lake City
Games, where South Koreans believe Ohno stole the gold from Kim
Dong-sung, who won the 1,500 but was disqualified for blocking.
Ohno threw up his arms as he tried to pass Kim, as though to cry
“I wouldn’t say that anything that happened in 2002 still
mattered today. That was then and this is now,” Lee Ho-suk said
through a translator. “That’s not any reason for us to defeat
Apolo. We will focus on the present and try to beat Apolo.”
Ohno has two more events – the 500 starting Wednesday and the
5,000 relay – to add more medals to his cache.