VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- If you think short-track speedskating is the sport that essentially involves going around in circles with a lot of bumps along the way, you're right. On two levels.
Entering the last turn of the 1,500-meter final, Ohno and countryman
Then, suddenly, the latter Lee made a move, and his skates gave out from under him. He took out Sung like a bowling ball picking up a spare. As the two tumbled together into the boards, Ohno and Celski swanned in to claim silver and bronze, respectively, marking the first time two American men have shared a short-track podium. "It was crazy, like a blur to me," Celski said. "I have to process it still. I saw one person make a pass, and two people go down ... and at that time I was in third and wound up with a medal."
Added Ohno: "[Lee Ho-Suk] tried a pretty wild pass, tried to pass on the inside, and it didn't work out for him."
It's worth pausing to take stock of that second level of circles.
Tonight three of them were closed:
In September, during a crash at the U.S. trials, Celski's left skate blade tore a gash into his right thigh that cut down to the bone. He'll whip out his iPhone and show a picture of the wound, taken by his anesthesiologist, to any athlete in the Olympic Village who's interested. "It's been a long five months," he said. As thrilled as he is to be an Olympic medalist, Celski is even more honored to be a prot�g� of Ohno, who hoisted him off the ice of the Pacific Coliseum in celebration: "He's proved that if you dedicate your life to something, you can do anything."
Consider the inverted symmetry between the silver he won last night in the 1,500 and the 1,000 meters silver he won at his first Olympics, in Salt Lake in 2002. In that '02 final,
Long-track speedskating is time-trialing, with skaters out on the ice in pairs, racing not against each other, but with the clock. In short-track, all that matters is outskating that guy at your elbow.
Hence the bumps along the way, and Ohno has always accepted them with equanimity. Sometimes you win; sometimes you tumble into the boards. "Short-track is one of the craziest events, and I was the beneficiary tonight," he said. "For me it's a historical night on so many counts, regardless of gold, silver or bronze.
"From a results standpoint, anything more is just icing on the cake. These Olympics are about so much more than me chasing medals. They're about completing my circle."
Or several, as things are turning out.