Apolo Anton Ohno: after Vancouver, more popular than ever
With two Olympic gold medals, a silver and two bronzes already to his name, Apolo Anton Ohno was hardly a new face when he arrived in Vancouver. His victories at the 2002 and 2006 Games had established him as the biggest name in short track speed skating.
The challenge facing Ohno in Canada was to secure a place in the record books as the most decorated Winter Olympian in the history of American sport.
The benchmark had been set by another short track speed skater, Bonnie Blair, who had won five golds and one bronze in her career. With five already under his belt, when he arrived in Vancouver, Ohno had the record firmly in his sights.
The ever-confident American won the overall world title in 2008 and claimed a 10th national title a year later. He then started making his plans for Vancouver, which included an arduous fitness regime. For five months he trained three times a day, every day, promising that “come these Games, there’s no-one who’s going to be fitter than me”.
His Games started with a slice of luck. Lying fourth at the last turn of the 1,500m final, Ohno was handed a place on the podium when Korean pair Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-Bak crashed, allowing him to take silver behind another Korean, Lee Jung-Su, and pull level with Blair on six medals.
Next up was the 1,000m. Lee Jung-Su was again the victor, with silver going to Lee Ho-Suk and bronze to Ohno, who held off a tough challenge from Canada’s Hamelin brothers to break Blair’s record.
There was bitter disappointment in the 500m, though, as Ohno was disqualified from the silver medal position after impeding Canadian François-Louis Tremblay. A third medal did come his way in the 5,000m relay, though, as the USA grabbed bronze behind Canada and the Republic of Korea.
Ohno returned to the USA more popular than ever, going on to appear on a celebrity dancing programme, host a quiz show and appear in a TV adventure series and a movie.