Hungry Ohno cements short track pedigree
Apolo Anton Ohno had emerged as the best known star of short track skating. For some, he was simply the sport’s outstanding athlete, having won gold and silver in the 2002 Games. He had also taken two world cup titles and a world championship. In Turin he wanted to show the world that he still had the appetite for success that had so marked his success four years before, and also, perhaps, that his competitive spirit had not been blunted.
His Games did not get off to a great start, though. His defence of the 1500m title ended in dramatic style in the semi-final, when Ohno nearly fell over while trying to overtake the Chinese skater Li Ye. He didn't go down in the end, but by the time Ohno had recovered his balance he was down in fourth place and did not qualify for the final, instead watching as the South Korean Ahn Hyun-Soo took gold.
The 1000m was next, expected to be a show-down between Ohno and Ahn. Ahn had won seven world titles in the years following the 2002 Olympics, but Ohno was one of the few skaters who had beaten him in a major competition.
They faced each other in the quarter-final, with Ahn coming out on top but both men qualifying. They met again in the semi-final, with the same conclusion – Ahn victorious, but Ohon still qualifying for the next round – the final.
The omens proved accurate. Ahn was imperious as he skated to victory in a new Olympic record time, leading throughout and never really challenged. But Ohno had to be content with bronze after he was passed by another South Korean skater, Lee Ho-Seok, with half a lap remaining.
Ohno now had just one chance to take a gold medal from these Games, and it was in the most frenetic of all the short track races – the 500m. And once more, Ahn lay in his way, along with the reigning 500m world champion François-Louis Tremblay.
In the final, there were two false starts as the athletes lined up nervously. But third time around, Ohno got it just right, speeding away from the line ahead of his rivals. He was out front for the whole race and finished in an Olympic record time, to take gold.
Ohno returned to the Olympic Winter Games in 2010, when he picked up a further two bronzes and a silver. He remains one of the best known short track skaters of all time.