VANCOUVER, B.C.– Trailing the South Koreans and a pair of Canadian brothers, Apolo Anton Ohno had to rally on the last lap to make history.
With the gold and silver out of reach, Ohno scooted furiously past Charles and Francois Hamelin to earn a bronze in the short-track 1,000-meter final Saturday night, making him the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.
“I really had to fight,” he said. “I can’t wait to watch the tape and see how I came back from last place to win bronze.”
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.
“Once I advanced to the front, all I could think of was just staying there,” Lee Jung-su said.
Ohno’s seventh career medal broke a tie with long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair. He now has two gold, two silver and three bronze medals in his three Olympic appearances. The skater from Seattle already earned a silver in the 1,500 last weekend.
Ohno wasn’t quite ready to brand himself the most decorated American in Winter Games history.
“In my mind, that’s a hard question. How do you answer that? I don’t put labels on myself,” he said. “I consider myself an athlete on my third Olympic Games, working my heart out. My goal was to come out and put my heart and soul into the Olympic Games and I’ve done that.”
Ohno appeared relieved as 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 with three laps to go, 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.’ ”
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 to rely on his experience to force his way onto the podium in the last lap.
Ohno grabbed an American flag and skated around, then patted his longtime South Korean rivals on their shoulders.
He has two more events – the 500 and 5,000 relay – to add more medals to his cache.
The 1,000 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.
On the podium, a smiling Ohno put his right arm around Lee Jung-su as they posed for photos, with 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.
This time, short track failed to live up to its reputation for thrills and spills.
Ohno made it safely through the quarterfinals and semifinals without any drama.
Ohno clearly had the crowd support, with fans holding up red-white-and-blue signs reading, “U.S.A.4A.A.O” and “Oh No.”
Sung won the consolation final.