Testing it out
Ohno returns to ice despite suffering from leg injuryPosted: Monday February 18, 2002 7:54 PM
Updated: Monday February 18, 2002 8:19 PM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Apolo Anton Ohno skated Monday for the first time since cutting his left leg in a spectacular short-track crash that probably cost him a gold medal.
Ohno was the last American to take the ice for the one-hour, 15-minute workout, clambering over the boards in a red helmet. He skated slowly at first, staying inside the black lane markers while his teammates zipped around.
Ohno wore a bandage under his skin suit to cover six stitches in his thigh.
"He looked great," U.S. coach Susan Ellis said. "He's in good spirits."
Ohno was cut by his own skate when four of five skaters collided and fell on the last lap of the 1,000 meters Saturday night. He staggered across the line to claim the silver.
"Today wasn't a 100 percent day. It wasn't a day to go fast. It was just a day to loosen up," Ellis said. "I think he'll be bang-on for Wednesday night. I don't see any problems."
Ohno's next race is the 1,500 meters. He'll need to advance through two rounds to reach the final -- one of three remaining events where he is favored to win a medal.
"It's not a top-speed race," Ellis said. "It's not a race where you have to do a really fast start and a lot of sprinting."
Ohno was leading the 1,000 when he and three other skaters collided and fell. He landed on his back, skidded to the side of the track and bounced off the boards. But he was able to get up and scramble the final 10 yards to finish behind surprise gold medalist Steven Bradbury of Australia.
Ohno cut himself when his right skate slashed into his left leg. He arrived at the medals ceremony in a wheelchair, then limped to the podium.
"It's not really a deep cut, so I don't think he'll be aggravating it out there," Ellis said. "We still have a few days before he really has to press it again and I think he'll be good to go."
Ohno, 19, skipped practice Sunday. But he was laughing Monday and even grabbed a squeegee to clear excess water off the track. Toward the end of practice, Ohno engaged in a high-speed pursuit of teammate Ron Biondo.
Ohno didn't speak with reporters, but he agreed to answer three questions that were submitted through a U.S. Speedskating spokesman.
He said he was in pain, but "I always feel pain. That is part of the sport."
Asked if the crash might affect him mentally in his next race, he said, "I hope not."
The crash was replayed repeatedly on television, and Ellis admitted the massive publicity is good for the sport. Although Ohno didn't win gold, the crash and his gracious attitude afterward has garnered him even more support.
"People are noticing how much fun our sport is to watch," said teammate Rusty Smith, who also will skate the 1,500.
"That's what we wanted to get out of this," he added. "We wanted to make sure everybody knows who we are and knows about our sport. We hope that's going to raise the level of our sport up that much more."