VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- For Apolo Ohno, perhaps the only thing more impressive than capturing a seventh medal and becoming the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history is slimming down to 2.8 percent body fat. The short track whiz gets his first chance to surpass speedskating star Bonnie Blair's record tonight, as he advanced to the quarterfinals for the 1,000-meter race earlier this week.
"I'm very confident in my preparations," Ohno said. "I know what I have inside of me. This is a fantastic start to the Olympic Games for me."
Ohno began his medal hunt in Vancouver with a somewhat-surprising silver in the 1,500-meter race. It wasn't surprising in the sense that Ohno wasn't expected to contend -- he is consistently in the mix for every event he skates -- but rather because it seemed that the South Korean skaters had a stranglehold on the podium with just a few laps left. But then Korean skaters Sung Si-Bak and Lee Ho-Suk got tangled up together in the second and third position and ultimately fell back, opening things up and giving Ohno and teammate J.R. Celski the opportunity to slip onto the podium.
The Korean skaters, however, are back and likely want to atone for the miscues of the 1,500-meter race. They will certainly present a big challenge for Ohno in the 1,000-meter, which, incidentally, is the only Olympic distance in which the 27-year-old skater hasn't won gold. Canadian skater Charles Hamelin, who disappointingly failed to make it to the finals in Saturday's 1,500-meter race, can also push for a medal here, looking to become Canada's first short track gold medalist since 2002 in Salt Lake City. Celski, who won the bronze in the 1,500, seems to be in prime shape despite having missed months of the season to recover from a devastating injury he suffered at Olympic Trials last September.
But really, all eyes will be on Ohno, who over the last 10 years has gotten quite used to the overwhelming attention. As the soul patch-wearing face of the sport, he became its greatest ambassador, channeling his widespread commercial appeal to attention to the ice. And with the eyes of the world watching, he'll try for No. 7.
"For me, from a results standpoint, anything more is icing on the cake," Ohno said.
And really, who eats cake without icing?
These Games mean so much more to the Seattle native, who grew up dominating the competition on the rinks in Vancouver. Its location is one of the reasons why he pushed himself for another go-around, pushed his training to get to the shape and position he is in now. With his seventh podium in sight, Ohno is looking to come full circle and leave Vancouver on top.