Archive for Sunday, February 24, 2002

s dreams of 4 medals dashed

February 24, 2002

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— Apolo Anton Ohno didn't get the call this time  or another Olympic gold medal.

Oh well, that's short track.

Ohno will have to settle for two medals after getting disqualified in the 500 meters, then anchoring a U.S. team that finished fourth after a fall in the 5,000-meter relay Saturday night.

"I got a silver medal and a gold medal," said Ohno, who'll go down as one of the most memorable athletes at the Salt Lake City Games. "It's real hard to walk away not feeling good about that."

Ohno, who won gold in the 1,500 and silver in the 1,000, began the final night of short track trying to become the only American other than Eric Heiden to capture at least four medals at one Winter Olympics. Heiden won five golds at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.

Ohno's quest ended in the 500 semifinals when he finished third, then was disqualified for a collision with Japanese skater Satoru Terao on the next-to-last turn. He needed to finish in the top two to advance.

Ohno still had a chance for a third medal in the relay  Sheila Young is the only other U.S. athlete to manage that many at a Winter games  but Rusty Smith clipped a lane marker and fell with 26 laps to go and the Americans never caught up.

By finishing fourth in the four-team race, they were the only finalist shut out of the medals. Canada won the gold, with Italy taking silver and China the bronze.

The Americans were the defending world champions in the relay.

"We were in perfect position," Ohno said. "There's no doubt in my mind if we wouldn't have gone down and I was there in the end, I could have done some magic."

Canadians Marc Gagnon and Jonathan Guilmette finished 1-2 in the Ohno-less 500 final, then returned to lead the relay team to another gold.

Still, the Americans didn't go without a medal. Smith, who has skated in Ohno's shadow at Salt Lake City, picked up a bronze in the 500.

Yang Yang (A) of China picked up her second gold medal of the games, winning the 1,000. Ko Gi-hyun of South Korea won silver and China's Yang Yang (S) took the bronze.

Yang Yang (A) also won the 500 a week ago, making her the first Chinese athlete to win gold at the Winter Olympics. Now, she's got two.

After the collision with Terao, Ohno remained on his feet but finished third, so he would not have advanced even if he wasn't DQed.

The star-studded crowd  many of them wearing fake "soul patches" under their lips in honor of Ohno  let out a stunned groan when the decision was announced. The 19-year-old American merely smiled and left the ice.

Terao was given a spot in the final, but he finished last of the five skaters.

"I tried to set up the Japanese skater on the inside," Ohno said. "I tried to hold the track and ran out of room."

What goes around ....

Ohno couldn't complain too much about the referee's decision. He won the 1,500 Wednesday despite crossing the line second behind South Korea's Kim Dong-sung, who was disqualified for an illegal block.

Then again, Ohno caught a bad break in the 1,000. He was leading on the final turn when a crash took out all but one skater.

Australia's Steven Bradbury skated across the line as the lucky winner, while Ohno staggered across in time to get the silver despite a gash in his left leg.

He was still skating Saturday with six stitches in his thigh. The injury appeared to hurt him at the start, an especially crucial part of the 4 1/2-lap race.

"I knew I had a downfall, my start at the beginning," Ohno said. "I really wasn't getting off the line."

Smith, a 22-year-old native of Sunset Beach, Calif., was a surprise winner in his semifinal heat, passing Kim with a half-lap to go.

In the final, Smith got the quickest start and led until a less than a lap remained. Gagnon made his move coming off the next-to-last turn, passing Smith on the inside. Guilmette also got by, but Smith stuck his blade across the line for bronze.

"Apolo has skated great getting gold and silver," Smith said. "Now I was able to a bronze, so we are bringing home a treasure of medals."

Gagnon gets gold

Gagnon pumped his fists as he crossed the line, having won his first individual gold medal. A four-time world champion, he was the sport's dominant skater through much of the 1990s but always came up short in the Olympics.

Gagnon made the 500 finals in the last two Olympics, but fell each time.

"It's the end of a journey," he said. "I still can't believe it."

Gagnon barely survived the semifinals. He beat Kim to the line by an inch or two, eliminating the South Korean world champion.

Ohno got through his heat and quarterfinals, though the first race was a photo finish.

In the semifinals, Ohno sat back in third most of the race  only the top two advanced  before making his move at the start of the final lap.

Ohno pulled in behind Guilmette, who was leading, but didn't get to the turn before Terao. They collided, sending Terao sliding into the boards.

Ohno's momentum was broken as well. China's Feng Kai passed the teen-ager from Seattle, who wound up in third. It didn't matter.

The referee announced that Ohno was disqualified for impeding.

Caroline Hallisey was the only U.S. woman skating on the final night of short track. She was eliminated in the 1,000 quarterfinals.

The competition was held before another packed house at the Salt Lake Ice Center, which included former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani, Salt Lake Olympics chief Mitt Romney and figure skating bronze medalist Michelle Kwan, who held up a sign that said "Oh Yes Ohno!"

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