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2006 Getty Images

Happier Ahn makes short track history

Ahn Hyun-soo had not enjoyed his first experience of the Olympic Games. In Salt Lake City, as a 16-year-old short track skating prodigy, the South Korean racer had made the final of the 1000m. At the final turn, he was part of the huge crash that left the way clear for Steve Bradbury to take gold. While others scrambled towards the line to grab a medal, placed fourth.

But by Turin, he was a different racer – more experienced, confident and prepared. His technique was refined – he would wait until the closing stages of a race before charging past the leader, normally on the outside of the track. He was ready to win races.

He took a bronze in the 500m sprint, beaten by Apolo Anton Ohno's inspired flying start as well as the world champion François-Louis Tremblay. Beyond that, though, Ahn's Olympic Games were a tale of unbroken success.

His victory in the 1000m was a chance to forget the disappointment of four years before, and to replace that memory with something happier. In the end, it also marked a comprehensive triumph over his rival Ohno, with Ahn beating him in the quarter-final, the semi-final and then the final itself. He set a new Olympic record and proved himself an outstanding competitor.

The 1500m was the race that everyone expected him to win. He was already a multiple world champion at the distance, although there were those who thought Ohno would rise to the challenge when the final came.

In the end, that clash never happened, with Ohno failing to get through the semi-finals. Ahn won the final with some ease, holding off team-mate Lee Ho-seok, and then added that even he was disappointed that Ohno had not made the final.

All that was left was the 5000m relay, expected to be a close-run affair between the Canadians and the South Koreans. Although Canada had won the semi-final between the two by a clear margin, the final was a tougher, faster affair that came down to the final lap. South Korea held on to win by a sliver, with Ahn earning his third gold medal, and his fourth medal overall. It was the first time a short track skater had ever won four medals at one Games. 

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