Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Apolo Ohno Skating His Way into Olympic Glory

Posted on February 27, 2010 by JA Allen
Ohno stays upright during the 2010 Olympics 500-meter short-track finals.

Ohno stays upright during the 2010 Olympics 500-meter short-track finals.

What did I love about the 2010 Winter Olympics?

Without a doubt, it was Apolo Anton Ohno and the exciting world of short-track speed skating.  What a ride!

Yes, Ohno was robbed of a silver medal in the 500-meter short-track speed skating final.  Come on, ref!  The only fair thing to do was to start the race over or “replay the point, gentlemen,” because no one escaped the hands-on havoc during the last lap of that terrific race.

Ohno came into the final as the defending champion, having won the gold in the 500-meters four years ago.  But no one really expected him to repeat in 2010, although you can never count Ohno out.  The man simply does not know how to quit.

27-year old Ohno definitely was not the fastest man on the ice last night but he was the smartest and perhaps the most powerful, experienced and determined.  Like a cat with two more lives to spare, Ohno went after the medal and took his chances.

You simply have nothing to lose if you are out of the running for a spot on the podium. There is no point in holding back or playing it safe.

Ohno Celebrating before being disqualified

Ohno Celebrating before being disqualified

Short-track is not the most beautiful event on ice because that honor must be accorded  to figure skating –– but it is the most compelling, engaging and down right thrilling action on the ice because it is over in a heart-beat unlike hockey that goes on for hours.

It is hard to imagine how much strength it takes to retain your balance during never-ending curves and short, often deceptive straight lines –– holding your own on the edge of your skates with no lanes and opponents riding your hips.

Last night during the quarterfinals, Ohno had to dance his way through a couple of downed competitors sprawled on the ice and that cost him seconds of time and made his time the slowest.

That he did not stumble and fall himself was a miracle and a testament to his superb timing and control.

In the semis one more fallen racer, Korean Lee Ho Suk, gave Ohno a further medal shot as the American managed to escape with another tricky maneuver past the skater who spilled out of contention.  Luck seemed to be with the crafty Ohno.

Ohno exhibiting intense concentration during the Olympic finals

Ohno exhibiting intense concentration during the Olympic finals

That put him into the finals with three extemely fast skaters.  Ohno needed to finish in the top three in order to medal.  There were two Canadians, Charles Hamelin and Francois-Louis Tremblay, and one South Korean, Sung Si Bak –– and Ohno needed to pass at least one of them.

At he end of the race Canadian Hamelin crossed the finish line first sideways and Ohno crossed second.  The other two skaters lay spread eagle on the ice.  The Canadian referee disqualified Ohno, saying he pushed Tremblay.

But the replay was not conclusive and Ohno felt he was unfairly treated as the South Korean snatched away his silver medal and Canadian Tremblay swiped the bronze.

It was the first short-track event of the 2010 Olympics where Ohno failed to medal and it left him one more event –– the men’s 5,000 meter relay for his last chance to climb onto the podium during a medal ceremony.

For the whole race, the U.S. team comprised of J.R. Celski, Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone in addition to Ohno, remained mired in fourth place.  By this time the French had fallen way off the mark, well back in fifth place.

The South Koreans and the Canadians battled it out for the number one spot, leaving the U.S. team to battle for the bronze medal with the Chinese during the final two laps anchored by team leader Ohno.

Ohno on the podium with U.S. teammates, winning the Bronze Medal in the 5,000 meter relay.

Ohno on the podium with U.S. teammates, winning the Bronze Medal in the 5,000 meter relay.

With the crowd screaming, on its feet, Ohno did the impossible once again, forging a win in a micro-second spurt, edging out the Chinese skater Song Weilong and stealing the bronze for himself and his young, enthusiastic teammates.

It was a perfect photo-finish for Ohno who leaves Vancouver and the 2010 Winter Olympics with 3 more medals, a silver and two bronzes and 8 medals in total.  The eight  medal count makes him the most decorated of all Americans in the history of the Winter Olympics.

There are those who continue to scoff at short-track speed skating as an Olympic event.  Let them scoff because it certainly requires extreme athleticism, power, speed and courage to engage in such intense and volatile competition unlike – say – beach volleyball and maybe synchronized swimming.  Please!

Indeed, short-track speed skating is not for the faint at heart.  The future will prove this sport along with snowboarding to be the salvation of Winter Olympics because it is these events that will attract the young who will wish to emulate Apolo Ohno and Shaun White.

Proof of the passion for this sport moving forward was the thrilling silver medal run of Katherine Reutter of the U.S. in the women’s 1,000 meter short-track event, finishing behind Chinese short track speed skater Wang Meng.  Reutter is the future of this event for American women.

Most speculate that this is Ohno’s last Olympic adventure.  It would stand to reason that he would decide on another path since he has accomplished so much on the ice and really has nothing left to prove in his chosen sport.

Speed skater Ohno winning number 7 and loving it.

Speed skater Ohno winning number 7 and loving it.

Ohno’s star power is a great addition to the sport but the incentive for him to continue to train in hopes of another medal or two in 2014 seems miniscule.  Those who watched him compete in 2010 saw the best athletes in the sport in action.

Ohno provided one thrill after another, flashing that winning smile and offering his fans promise for another adventure down the road…

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