Saturday, February 16, 2002
Updated: February 17, 2:04 PM ET
Ohno crashes yards from finish line
ESPN.com news services
SALT LAKE CITY -- Apolo Anton Ohno was one turn away from his first Olympic gold medal when, suddenly, he found himself sliding back-first into the boards, his left leg sliced open.
Race over? No way.
He bounced back with a desperate lunge, crawling on his hands and knees the last few yards and finally swinging his injured leg over the finish line.
A golden moment on a night he claimed silver in the 1,000 meters short track.
"I never, ever, ever take a race for granted until I cross the finish line," Ohno said. "I was in a daze. It happened so quick. I just wanted to finish."
Ohno was leading when a crash -- which didn't appear to be his fault -- took out the 19-year-old American and three other skaters.
Ohno landed on his back and spun to the side of the track, his helmeted head ricocheting off the padding. The gash in his leg was probably caused by his own razor-sharp skates as his body spun out of control.
Even so, Ohno staggered to his feet and stumbled the final 10 yards to the line, claiming silver after Australia's Steven Bradbury, who had been in last place, coasted across the line as the lucky winner.
Canada's Mathieu Turcotte, also taken out in the crash, got up in time to claim the bronze.
"I could feel the wind at the my fingers and the next thing I know, I'm in the boards," Ohno said.
Amazingly, he had no complaints about his misfortune. No wonder the mantra for this crazy sport is, "That's short track."
Ohno needed six stitches in his inner left thigh, and USOC physician for speedskating Rudy Bosters said Ohno's cut was three centimeters long. The injury was a surface laceration, but there was no damage to the muscle.
Ohno said he should be able to compete in his other three Olympic races, beginning Wednesday. If healthy, he would be among the favorites in all three.
"I thought it was one of the best efforts of my life," Ohno said. "I was definitely very happy with my performance, regardless of what medal I have.
"I'm just lucky the injury is not more severe."
Bradbury earned Australia's first Winter Olympics gold medal ever, taking advantage of the quirkiest sport in the games. He reached the final only because another skater was disqualified in the semifinals.
In the last race, Bradbury was the only skater standing after the crash took out his four competitors.
"Maybe I'm not the most deserving guy, but I got the gold and I'm stoked about it," Bradbury said. "I thought maybe two would go down and I'd get the bronze. Then I saw them all go down and, `Oh, my God."'
The sellout crowd of more than 15,424 booed loudly when Bradbury was shown as the winner. One skater, China's Li Jiajun, was disqualified but officials allowed the other results to stand.
Ohno won't win four gold medals, but his gutsy move at the end will most likely stand as one of the signature moments of these games.
"My quest, my journey, is not about winning four golds," Ohno said. "It's about coming to the Olympics."
The teen-ager from Seattle made an outside pass for the lead with two laps to go and was still in front heading to the final turn, the crowd deafening as they sensed a chance to watch him win the first of his Olympic medals.
That's when everything fell apart.
Li tried to pass on the outside, jostling with Ohno as both skaters fought for position. Li slipped out of the race about the same time Ahn Hyun-soo moved inside of Ohno.
It was a brazen move by the 16-year-old South Korean, considering there was hardly any room to pass. Not surprisingly, it sent bodies flying in all directions.
Ahn went down and took out Ohno and Turcotte. The American did a 360-degree spin and slammed into the boards.
Bradbury, who was far behind the other four skaters in the final, simply glided across the line. He threw up his arms and smiled in disbelief.
Even after the gold medal was draped around his neck, Bradbury was still shaking his head and smiling sheepishly.
The Australian makes speedskating boots on the side. In fact, Ohno is his best customer, so Bradbury sent an e-mail Friday asking Ohno to give the company a plug if he won the gold medal.
"I guess I don't need him to do that now," Bradbury quipped.
In the night's other final, Yang Yang (A) won China's first Winter Olympic gold medal in the women's 500. Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria took the silver and Wang Chunlu of Chino claimed the bronze.
Yang and Wang carried a Chinese flag around the rink and broke down in tears as they hugged their coach.
"In China, they're still celebrating the Chinese New Year," Wang said. "So these medals can be the best gifts from us to the Chinese people."
Caroline Hallisey, of Natick, Mass., made it into 500 final with a couple of thrilling comebacks and a photo finish. But she finished last out of five skaters in the medal race.
Meanwhile, the Olympic career of Amy Peterson came to an end.
Peterson, a five-time Olympian who won a silver at the 1992 Albertville Games and two bronzes at Lillehammer in '94, was part of the American 3,000 relay team that fell in the semifinals and finished far back.
She made it through the heats of 500 but finished a distant third in the quarterfinals, crossing the line with her hands on her knees.
Still, it was a memorable games for the 30-year-old Peterson, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. She carried the American flag in the opening ceremony.
"I never imagined I'd be racing in my fifth Olympics," Peterson said.
On this night, everyone came to see Ohno, who won his quarterfinal and semifinal races.
His most brilliant move came in the quarters, when the teen-ager nicknamed "Chunky" somehow squeezed between Bradbury and Marc Gagnon of Canada.
Ohno pulled away from the other three skaters, looking back derisively over his shoulder as he crossed the finish line all alone.
Someone held up a sign, "Go Chunky! Apolo is Phat."
Ohno didn't have to face the defending Olympic and World Cup champion in the final. Kim Dong-sung of South Korea fell on the final lap and was eliminated.