Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Updated: February 23, 12:05 PM ET
South Korean DQ'd; officials promise protest
SALT LAKE CITY -- OK, so nothing comes easy for Apolo Anton Ohno.
If he is not being accused of fixing a race, getting knocked down on the last lap or skating with stitches in his leg, he's dodging a rival speedskater with a half-lap to go.
So far, it is all working out fine for the teen-ager from Seattle who could wind up with four medals at the Winter Games.
Ohno's second medal came in the 1,500 meters Wednesday night. He was the second one across the finish line but he won after South Korean Kim Dong-sung was disqualified for blocking him during the last lap.
"I'm just so happy," Ohno said. "It's something deep down in my heart I'll keep forever."
The decision drew sharp criticism from Korean officials.
"This is far-fetched," said Jun Myung-kyu, the South Korean coach for 15 years. "It doesn't make any sense. The level of the referee was not up to the level of what an Olympic referee should be."
Park Sung-in, head of the South Korean Olympic delegation, said formal complaints will be filed with the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union.
"Frankly speaking, I want to boycott the games and go back home," Park told a South Korean reporter. "I can't bear to watch any more of these unfair rulings."
Ohno's first attempt at gold ended Saturday night with him sprawled on the ice, taken out in a final-turn crash during the 1,000 meters. He managed to crawl to the finish line and take the silver.
This is the same skater who was accused of fixing a 1,000-meter qualifying race in December so a friend could make the U.S. team. An arbitrator ruled there wasn't enough evidence to prove the claim.
"It's something I've come to expect," Ohno said. "People are going to ask questions no matter what the outcome."
On Wednesday night, Ohno skated with six stitches in his left thigh, though he didn't seem bothered by the injury. After being last or next-to-last for much of the 13½-lap race, he brought more than 15,000 fans to their feet with a daring pass of three skaters with two laps to go.
He moved into second behind Kim, the defending World Cup champion.
"That was my strategy," he said. "I wanted to wait as long as possible because there was a lot of traffic.
Coming off the next-to-last turn, Ohno used a burst of momentum and dipped to the inside to get around the first-place South Korean. But Kim moved into his path, prompting Ohno to throw up his arms -- a cagey move that certainly drew the attention of race officials.
When the chief referee, James Hewish of Australia, skated over to turn in his decision, the crowd gasped in anticipation. Then came the announcement: Kim was disqualified and the 19-year-old Ohno was the gold medalist.
Ohno dropped to his knees at center ice. Kim, who was in the middle of a victory lap with a South Korean flag, slammed down the banner in disgust.
"They can just throw me in the desert and bury me," Ohno said. "I got a gold medal. I'm good now."
Li Jiajun of China won the silver and Marc Gagnon of Canada took the bronze.
"I waited for the right time to move, and it worked out," Ohno said. "I just did my best, and I shined like a star."
Others disagreed. Italy's Fabio Carta, who finished fourth, said it was "absurd" that Kim had been disqualified and South Korea's state news agency Yonhap summed up the race this way:
"After several failed attempts to cut in front of Kim Dong-sung, Ohno drew attention of the referees with a 'Hollywood action,' and finally won the gold medal. He should have won an Academy Award for his trick."
Short-track races are governed by three officials: the chief referee and two assistants who skate in small circles at the center of the track watching the action.
Kim was disqualified for "cross-tracking" -- improperly crossing the course to interfere with another skater. The skater angrily declined to comment.
"He definitely came over on me," Ohno said. "Good call."
After the announcement, Ohno hugged his coaches while being cheered from the stands by his father, Yuki, a hairstylist who raised his son after Ohno's mother walked out of his life when he was 1.
After failing to make the U.S. team in 1998 because he was out of shape, Ohno rededicated himself and became a star even before he arrived in Salt Lake City. He has a cult following, including men and women who wear fake chin hair, mimicking Ohno's trademark soul patch.
The games didn't start so well for Ohno.
He was out front in his first event, the 1,000, when a four-skater crash on the last lap sent him spinning into the boards. He cut himself with his own skate blade.
Ohno staggered to the finish, throwing his injured leg over the line to claim a silver medal in one of the signature moments of the Winter Games.
South Korea didn't leave without a medal in Wednesday's other event. The women's 3,000 relay team won its third consecutive gold with a world record of 4 minutes, 12.793 seconds.
China took the silver and Canada the bronze, the same order as the Nagano Games four years ago.