Ohno captures gold after winner disqualifiedPosted: Wednesday February 20, 2002 8:59 PM
Updated: Thursday February 21, 2002 12:55 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Oh, no! Not again!
Oh, my! This one's gold!
Apolo Anton Ohno crossed the finish line second again Wednesday night, but this time it was good enough for first place -- a stunning reversal of his Olympic misfortune.
The 19-year-old American, whose first shot at gold ended with him sprawled on the ice, won the 1,500 meters when South Korean Kim Dong-sung was disqualified for blocking him with a half-lap to go.
"They can just throw me in the desert and bury me," Ohno said. "I got a gold medal. I'm good now."
Ohno, who skated with six stitches in his left thigh, dropped to his knees in the center of the rink when the decision was announced. Kim, in the middle of a victory lap with a South Korean flag, threw down the banner in disgust. Later his coach angrily criticized the outcome.
Ohno was denied the gold in the 1,000 Saturday, taken out by a last-turn crash that he didn't cause. He still managed to stumble and crawl to the finish, taking the silver behind Australia's Steven Bradbury, the only skater not involved in the melee.
Ohno didn't seem bothered by the injury in the 1,500. After being last or next-to-last for much of the 13 1/2-lap race, he brought the sellout crowd to its feet with a daring pass on three skaters with two laps to go, moving up to second.
"I took a chance, stayed in the back, relaxed and saved some energy," Ohno said.
He still had to get past Kim, the defending World Cup champion.
Coming off the next-to-last turn, Ohno used a burst of momentum and dipped to the inside to get around the South Korean. But Kim moved into his path, prompting Ohno to throw up his arms -- a cagey move that certainly drew the attention of the referees.
Having cut off Ohno, Kim cruised around the final turn and crossed the line believing he had won gold. Ohno pumped his fist as he crossed the line, then smiled as he looked toward the replay board.
Kim grabbed his national flag and began to celebrate, but Ohno remained on the ice until the official results were posted.
When the chief referee, James Hewish of Australia, skated over to turn in his decision, the crowd gasped in anticipation. Then the announcer revealed it: Kim was disqualified and the teen-ager from Seattle was the gold medalist.
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."
Short-track races are governed by three officials: the chief referee and two assistants, who move in small circles at the center of the track as the skaters whiz around them. Kim was disqualified for "cross-tracking" -- improperly crossing the course to interfere with another skater.
"I came out of the corner with great acceleration, came on him real tight, got inside of him, and he just moved over on me," Ohno said. "He definitely came over on me. Good call."
Kim angrily refused to comment, but his coach criticized the decision.
"This is far-fetched," said Jun Myung-kyu, the national 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."
Another skater also criticized the decision.
"It's absurd that the Korean was disqualified," said Italy's Fabio Carta, who finished fourth.
Ohno hugged his coaches while being cheered from the stands by his father, Yuki, who gave up the jetsetting lifestyle of a hairstylist to the stars and settled down to raise his son after Ohno's mother walked out of his life when he was 1.
It wasn't the easiest life. Ohno was a latchkey child who admittedly hung out with the wrong crowd. But when he watched an Olympic short-track race on television, he was hooked.
There were some tough times along the way. He failed to make the U.S. team in 1998 because he was out of shape. Dropped off by his father at a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Ohno rededicated himself to the sport and became its brightest star.
He came to Salt Lake City with hopes of winning four gold medals, but that ended in his very first event, the 1,000.
Ohno was out front as he turned into the final turn, but a four-skater crash sent him crashing into the boards -- cutting himself with his own blade in the process.
Ohno managed to stagger to the finish, throwing his injured leg over the line to claim a silver medal, one of the signature moments of the Winter Games.
His graciousness afterward endeared him to American fans. For Ohno, accepting that sort of misfortune is just part of the sport.
"It's something I've come to expect," he said. "People are going to ask questions no matter what the outcome."
Ohno rested his injured leg Sunday but worked out the last two days and had no problems when he stepped on the ice Wednesday.
He yawned as he glided onto the rink to a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd at the Salt Lake Ice Center, where growing interest in the sport was evident from all the people standing outside in a chilly drizzle hoping to buy tickets.
Inside, an Ohno cheering section featured men and women wearing fake dark soul patches on their chins, emulating his trademark facial hair.
After the 1,000, Ohno had to be brought to the edge of the ice in a wheelchair to receive his silver. He didn't need any assistance for this medal ceremony.
Ohno bounded to the top step on the podium in a leather jacket, brushing back his flowing brown hair as flashbulbs went off all over the arena. He kissed his medal and held it aloft for all to see.
While the American flag was raised, Ohno placed his right hand over his heart and sang along to the national anthem.
The other medal event of the night turned out better for South Korea. The country won its third straight gold medal in the women's 3,000 relay 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.
Choi Min-kyung pumped both fists as she crossed the line, eclipsing the mark of 4:13.541 set by China at a World Cup meet in Calgary. She was quickly joined by her three teammates, Choi Eun-kyung, Joo Min-jin and Park Hye-won, who circled the track carrying a South Korean flag while a small contingent from their homeland cheered wildly.