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Ohno sails in 1,500 meters, slides in 500 meters

12/13/2005

MARQUETTE, Mich. -- Kim Hyo-jung remained perfect at the
U.S. short track championships. Apolo Anton Ohno finally slipped
up.

Then there's Shani Davis, who has some catching up to do if he
wants to pull off a historic double.

Ohno easily won the 1,500 meters Tuesday night but ran into
trouble in the 500, sliding across the line on his stomach after
wiping out on the final turn. But, true to the capricious nature of
short track, he wound up in second place -- another skater had gone
down earlier and the first guy across the line, two-time Olympian
Rusty Smith, was disqualified for an illegal block.

"As long as I can be one or two in every single distance, I'm
happy with that," said Ohno, who won both time trials on Monday
and has a commanding lead in the overall men's standings with 89
points.

The top spot is even more clear-cut on the women's side. No one
has come close to beating Kim, a 17-year-old native of South Korea
who became an American citizen. She's 4-for-4 halfway through the
four-day meet, giving her the maximum 102 points.

Kim won both time trials -- setting new U.S. records at each
distance -- and was just as dominant once the real racing began
Tuesday. In the pack-style format, she started quickly in both the
1,500 and 500, showing more endurance and speed than any of her
competitors.

"Halie is very consistent in training," said Derrick Campbell,
managing director of U.S. short track. "She's always ready at the
big competitions. She should finish just as strong as she
started."

Kim's overwhelming superiority allows her to run her own race at
the front of the field, clear of the jostling and crashes that are
as much a part of this high-speed sport as ice and skates.

Speaking of skates, Davis chipped off a piece of the blade on
his right skate in the 500 semifinals, making it tough for him to
even finish the race without falling. But he came back to win the
consolation final when the other three skaters all went down,
giving him five precious points in his bid to become the first
American to skate on both the long and short track teams at one
Olympics.

Describing his skate mishap, which came with him leading the
race, Davis said, "I couldn't build any pressure on my right
skate. That's short track. If you want to play the game, you've got
to accept the consequences of putting yourself out there, and I do.

"Last man standing," he added, "that's what it is."

Davis also failed to make the main final at 1,500, again
settling for a win in the consolation race. He has 8½ points
overall, leaving him eighth in the standings when only the top five
will get a chance to race in Turin.

"The battle isn't over yet," said his coach, Bob Fenn.

But Fenn acknowledged that Davis must make a big move on
Thursday, the next day of competition.

"We've got to get points in the 'A' finals," Fenn said.

Ohno has a huge lead on Anthony Lobello, who won the 500 when
Smith was DQed, and jumped into second place in the overall
standings with 39 points. Alex Izykowski is third (35½), followed
by J.P. Kepka (30) and Smith (18½).

Kim is followed in the women's standings by Allison Baver, who
has been second in all four events. The 25-year-old native of
Reading, Pa., has 63 points, far ahead of third-place Kimberly
Derrick (27). Caroline Hallisey is fourth (19½) and Kristen Biondo
fifth (18).

Amy Peterson, coming out of retirement at age 34 in an attempt
to make her sixth Olympic team, is sixth with 10½ points.

There were plenty of crashes and mishaps at the Northern
Michigan University hockey rink, which Ohno attributed to "dirty"
ice.

"A lot of guys are losing edges," he said. "It's kind of
unfortunate."

In the 1,500, Ohno darted to the lead with four laps to go and
pulled away on his final trip around the course, beating Izykowski
by close to 30 feet in a sport where the margin of victory is often
just an inch or two.

Ohno didn't have to worry about Davis, a close friend who was
relegated to the "B" final.

"Anything can happen," Ohno said. "It's Olympic trials and
guys are ready. They're willing to do anything to make it, they
don't care. You got to go into every single race prepared."

Ohno sure looks prepared. Now 23, he considers himself even
better than he was in Salt Lake City, where he thrilled the
American crowds by winning gold and silver medals as a teenager.
Many fans mimicked the wisp of hair beneath his lower lip by
wearing fake soul patches. With his dashing looks and flowing brown
hair, Ohno is the most prominent face in a sport that draws scant
attention in the United States outside of an Olympic year.

"Mentally and physically, I'm more experienced as a skater,"
Ohno said.

Davis already is a lock to skate long track at the Olympics,
even though he will go through the formality of competing at the
national championships in Salt Lake City later this month.

But there is no pre-qualifying for the short track team, which
is based strictly on this meet in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Davis
has to be one of the top five in order to expand his workload in
Turin.

"If there's anybody who can do it, it's him," Ohno said.

Davis brushed off the media after the time trials, proclaiming
he wouldn't talk until Friday -- the final night of the
championships. But his self-imposed boycott lasted only until
Tuesday.

"I knew what I was getting myself into before I started this
competition," he said. "I knew it was going to be pretty fierce
competition. I'm looking forward to challenging myself throughout
this competition, trying to do my best and get as many points as
possible."