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Apolo Anton Ohno finds a silver lining

He takes advantage of a crash by racers in front to finish second in the men's speedskating short-track 1,500 meters.

February 14, 2010|By Chris Kuc

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Trailing three skaters rounding the final turn of the men's 1,500 meter short-track speedskating event Saturday wasn't where Apolo Anton Ohno wanted to be.

In an instant, the ice opened in front of him. Ohno took advantage, winning the silver medal at Pacific Coliseum and becoming the U.S. man with the most medals in the Winter Olympics.

Looking destined to finish fourth, Ohno suddenly found himself in second place as South Korean skaters Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-Bak took each other out, paving the way for the Seattle native to skate into history.

Competing in his third Olympics, Ohno crossed the line behind South Korea's Lee Jung-Su to earn his sixth medal, passing Eric Heiden for most by an American man. Ohno is tied with Bonnie Blair as the most decorated U.S. athlete in the Winter Olympics.

"I feel good -- my mind's in a good place," Ohno said after the race. "I was just happy to make the final. It feels good to have my mojo back."

The skaters jostled for position throughout but remained on their skates until the finish line was in sight.

"It was just a fight," Ohno said. "I was fighting with one Korean and then I passed him and was fighting with another Korean. There was a lot of bumping, a lot of contact. I got tangled up. That's short track. Anything is possible."

American J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., won the bronze medal. The medal capped a remarkable comeback from a serious leg injury suffered at the U.S. Olympic trials in September.

"Words can't describe it," Celski said. "I'm so happy to be here.

"It was amazing. I had no idea what happened. I just tried to stay on my feet. It was such a blur."

On the women's competition, American teammates Katherine Reutter and Alyson Dudek lived to skate another day, advancing to the quarterfinals of the women's 500.

"Going into this race I was very jittery," said Reutter, who finished first in her heat and qualified with the fourth-fastest overall time of 44.187 to move on to Wednesday's quarterfinals.

"It's kind of a motto, so right before I got out on the ice I kept telling myself to, 'Just do me, just do what I do. Just because it's the Olympics I don't have to bring it more, I don't have to skate better. What I do is good enough.' I earned my way here and I'm ready to race in the finals."

Reutter, from Champaign, Ill., watched teammate Dudek. She flashed a smile when Dudek finished second with a time of 44.560 seconds to advance. Both will be chasing China's Meng Wang, who has dominated short-track speedskating the last two years and Saturday set an Olympic record of 43.926.

"The first race of any competition is the most nerve-wracking," Dudek, from Hales Corners, Wis., said. "I'm just happy that one is out of the way.

"Katherine and I both made it out, which is awesome for the U.S. This year we're a really strong women's team."

Reutter, who normally excels at longer distance events, didn't make things easy on herself with a false start. A second one would have meant disqualification.

"I felt like I had contained the jitters, but apparently not," she said. "I'm actually kind of happy it happened. Once it did, I had to force myself to take a deep breath and stretch out my arms. It was like, 'Katherine, if you mess up again, you're out. So get your act together. And I did it and it worked."

The U.S. women's 3,000 meter relay team qualified for the Feb. 24 finals.

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