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Saturday, February 20, 2010
Ohno shares record night with fans

By Lindsay Berra
ESPN The Magazine

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Apolo Anton Ohno woke up Saturday morning with one of the most important races of his life in front of him. He knew he needed to be mentally prepared and singularly focused. But while many athletes would have put the phone away and turned inward, Ohno instead decided to greet the world with a few tweets.

Apolo Ohno
Apolo Ohno spent the time before his races and after connecting with his fans.

Race-day tweet No. 1: Gd mrng friend, tweeps,& tweepets. Another step in this incredible journey. It will be succesful no matter what the result. No regrets!

His journey has brought him to the pinnacle of his sport. Ohno collected his seventh short-track medal, a bronze, in the 1,000 meters at the Pacific Coliseum on Saturday night, moving past Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian in history. It also gave him more medals than any other short-track athlete, regardless of nation.

Race-day tweet No. 2: Sun is shining, I am focused, determined, driven. I am blessed to be alive, healthy with an incredible opportunity to be my best. I CAN!

Ohno certainly seemed to be skating his best. In his quarterfinal heat, he hung back as he usually does, then made a late move to finish second and qualify for the semifinals. In the next heat, Ohno moved from third to first with a bold push to the inside on the last lap to secure his place in the final.

For the first few laps of the final race, Ohno ran in third between a pair of Koreans, Lee Ho-Suk and Lee Jung-Su, and Canada's Hamelin brothers, Charles and Francois, who set the early pace. Ohno moved into second with two and a half laps left in the nine-lap race. But he slipped, and fell back to fifth. "When I moved up to second, I thought the race was mine," Ohno said. "Then I had that big slip, lost all my speed and saw everyone flying by me."

But Ohno recovered and charged from last place to third just in time to cross the finish line. "I was able to fight hard, come back, regroup mentally, and was very happy to be able to come back and win a bronze medal," he said. "Medal number seven. Not that many athletes in this sport come back to medal in back-to-back Games and for me to do it in three is very special. I'm all smiles."

Race-day tweet No. 3: For a man 2 conquer himself is the 1st &noblest of all victories. No doubts,fears,hesitation. Do what you believe-trust your heart & mind

Ohno, who took gold in 2002 in the 1,500 meters and gold in 2006 in the 500, came into Vancouver in the best shape of his life, looking to add a gold in the 1,000 to his collection. At 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, he weighs 10 pounds less than he did in Torino, and 20 pounds less than in Salt Lake. "I prepared for these games like I've never prepared for anything in my life. I felt good all day. I was very confident in my own speed and my own power," he said. "For me it's another historic night, not just because of the label or because of breaking records, but simply because I raced my heart out and represented my country the best I possibly could."

Ohno is keenly aware of how his athletic achievements can affect others, and it is that which drives him to Twitter, even on the days he races. "I really try to let people into my head and see how I'm seeing the day and see how my experience is during the Games," he says. "It's inspirational to me that just by being an athlete and representing the United States in the Olympic Games I can inspire so many people. So I think it's a very healthy distraction."

Less than an hour after his race, in between flower ceremonies and TV interviews and news conferences, Ohno found time for yet another tweet: If I have given my all & still dont win, I haven't lost.Others might remember winning or losing;I remember the journey.- I did it!!

As the record books prove, he certainly did.

Lindsay Berra is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.