Different endings for Ohno, Reutter
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Katherine Reutter bore the weight of history lightly Friday night, bouncing up and down on the podium with glee. Her silver medal in the 1,000-meter short-track speedskating event crossed an invisible plane for the U.S. Olympic team, all but guaranteeing a record-breaking Winter Games medal haul.
Reutter's medal was No. 33 and was followed mere minutes later by the U.S. men's 5,000-meter relay bronze, bringing the total to 34. That's the same number won by the U.S. team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Barring a bizarre development or a disqualification, the men's hockey team and long-track speedskaters in the team pursuit event also are assured of medals this weekend.
Apolo Ohno missed out on his last chance at an individual medal in Vancouver on Friday when he was disqualified from the 500-meter race for illegal contact, but he earned his eighth career medal, a team bronze in the 5,000-meter relay, further extending his U.S. Winter Olympics mark.
In the same way Reutter, 21, had set a couple of Olympic record times at the Pacific Coliseum in the past fortnight only to see them broken in the next heat, she kicked her skate over the line first in the medal count.
Reutter had to execute a tricky inside pass late in the race to reach the podium and said she felt she had finally put together a tactically sound final after a race or two in which she had performed better in earlier rounds.
"I think I finally kind of found my niche and how to stay calm and composed out there," Reutter said. "I was saying to my coaches this week, 'I don't know what's happening to me. I know how to race on the World Cup. I've been preparing for months and months to treat this just like another World Cup.' I've been forcing passes that weren't quite there or losing my thought process and ending up in the back of the pack. But today I went into this and I had my confidence back."
Ohno at first suggested that home bias might have been involved in the referee's decision to disqualify him for pushing Canadian Francois-Louis Tremblay, who fell after the contact.
After officials reviewed the video, they awarded Korean skater Sung Si-Bak the silver and Tremblay the bronze. Canada's Charles Hamelin won the gold.
"I ran up on [Tremblay]," Ohno told NBC in the immediate aftermath of the race. "I put my hand up so I wouldn't run into him. There was just no space to move up. ... You know, it's the head Canadian referee out there, and there were two Canadians in the race."
But at a news conference later in the evening, Ohno struck a more conciliatory note. He said the cumulative fatigue of the past two weeks had finally hit him and added, "The gun went off, and I looked like I was starting a nuclear reactor, how slow [my start] was.''
"I was a little disappointed,'' Ohno said of the disqualification. "Every race you skate, you want to be able to medal. It was a very tough race, and I did the best I could. I thought I was going to snag another silver. The referees didn't see it that way, and it was out of my control."
Ohno said he has not decided whether he will compete long enough to try to qualify for the 2014 Games.
Reutter's second podium appearance gives the sprite from Champaign, Ill., a couple of rather pleasant problems to solve -- keeping her two medals, Friday's silver and a relay bronze, from getting scratched when she puts them on together, and trying to get someone to make her favorite sweet-tooth concoction, strawberry ice cream with coconut and Oreo bits mixed in.
She received veteran advice on the first topic, telling reporters that long-track star Shani Davis recommends placing something between the two pieces of hardware so they don't clink together. The ice cream, which usually is custom-mixed at Cold Stone Creamery, might be a little harder to find, but Reutter says she intends to have an 18-scooper of something or other as a treat for getting her body fat below 13 percent.
For those scoring precious metal at home, here are a few interesting statistics generated by the last day of short-track competition:
• The U.S. has what looks like an impregnable lead in the overall medal count. The country has finished atop the Winter Games chart just once before, in Lake Placid in 1932.
• The country's 36 medals would equal the all-time record set by Germany in Salt Lake City.
• However, Canada -- which flogged itself during the first week for underperforming -- has 10 gold medals and is poised to collect the most of any country, boosted by two wins in short-track on Friday: the 5,000-meter relay and Hamelin's 500-meter victory.
• Reutter became the ninth U.S. multimedalist, along with Davis; Alpine skiers Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Vonn; Nordic combined skiers Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong; and fellow short-trackers Ohno and J.R. Celski.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.