Winter Olympics: Ohno Wins 8th Medal

Short Track Speed Skating - Day 15

VANCOUVER, British Columbia–Contrary to appearances, it seems that Apolo Anton Ohno can do wrong. After it looked like he won the silver medal in the men’s 500m, Ohno was disqualified for illegal contact with Canadian Francois-Louis Tremblay. But a consummate competitor, Ohno bounced back just 30 minutes later in the 5000m relay to anchor his team—including J.R. Celski, Jordan Malone, Travis Jayner and Simon Cho—to a bronze medal.

“I’ve have nothing but green lights this entire time here in Vancouver,” Ohno said. “The process has been amazing. For me, this has been my best Olympic games of all time.”

With the relay bronze, Ohno won his third medal of the games and the eighth of his career. He’d already sealed his title as the world’s most decorated short track skater and the most decorated American Winter Olympian with his seventh medal earlier in the week.

“For me, it’s very meaningful and my lucky number is 8,” he said. “I have 8 on my skates. 8 is a great number for me.”

Ohno started the night making his way from the quarterfinals in the men’s 500m to the semis, maneuvering through crashes in both heats in order to make it to the finals, where he got an unusually slow start.

“In our sport, we compete from the very beginning to the very end of the Olympic games. Your body gets fatigued,” he said. “When that gun went off I looked like I was starting a nuclear reactor. That’s how slow my start was.”

He was in fourth place going into the last turn when he tried to find room on the inside of the track to make a move. But the referees ruled that he made illegal contact with Tremblay, sending the Canadian sliding into the pads. At the same time, Korea’s Sung Si-Bak had a run-in with Canada’s Charles Hamelin, leaving Sung skidding off the track. Only Ohno was disqualified.

“I just saw two guys go down,” Ohno said. “I thought I had the silver, but in this sport I’ve learned over many, many years and through life in general that you only have control over certain things. And for me, I skated as hard as I could. I skated my heart out. I had a lot of great support and I left every single thing I had on the ice.”

But Ohno said he didn’t think he made contact.

“Not like they were saying,” Ohno said after the relay medal ceremony. As he was trying to find an opening, he caught up to Tremblay and said he put his hand up so as not to run into him.

“But again it doesn’t matter what I think,” he said. “When you get off the ice, the decision is made either way. You have to be proud about what you just did. And I am.”

Was he disappointed? Sure. But Ohno seems unflappable.

“I think naturally I was a little disappointed because obviously every single race you skate you want to medal, you want to do the best you can,” he said. “It was a very tough race. I thought I was going to be able to snag another silver medal, but the referees didn’t see it that way, so it was out of my control.”

With just 30 minutes to recoup, Ohno rallied with his U.S. teammates for a medal in the 5000m relay.

“We’ve shared so many blood sweat and tears together,” he said. “I was happy to be able to come up and grab the bronze with these guys.”

The short track relay is a famously harried and unpredictable event. With five teams on the ice instead of the usual four, it was especially crowded.

“It was crazy out there,” Malone said. “I don’t even know if it was a race. It was more of a roller derby. But that’s what the short track relay has become in the past 10 years. It was really great to just be able to stay out of trouble and bring it home.”

The U.S. was in fourth place going into the last lap. But with a push onto the ice from J.R. Celski, Ohno propelled his team past China into third place.

“This is what it’s all about—being able to compete and deliver under any circumstance,” he said. “The ice was getting really, really choppy in the end. We made a big change in our relay order in at the last minute. Usually Travis pushes me. But we had to change things around because some of our guys were extremely fatigued. We had to make a strategic move and it worked out very well.”

“Business is finished and business is good,” said Malone. “These guys are my family and now that’s been bronzed.”

Ohno’s teammates are all first-time Olympians, whereas Ohno just finished his third games. But he wouldn’t comment whether or not he’ll be around in another four years.

“I think I’m always going to be involved in short track in some way shape or form,” he said. “I’m just enjoying this moment with these guys.”

But his younger teammates seem more than eager for another shot at the Olympics.

“I’m highly motivated for 2014,” Malone said. “I’m leaving here hungry.”

And for Ohno, whether he retires after the Vancouver games or not, he has left an indelible legacy on the sport and America’s memory.

“I’ve been kind of emotional all day,” Ohno said. “This has been quite the epic journey.”

This post first appeared in The Washington Times Communities on Feb. 27, 2010.

Karla Bruning

About 

Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

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03 2010

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