VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The day that was likely Apolo Ohno's last on an Olympic stage ended in another rally and another medal. The skater who has come from behind to win two medals already at the Vancouver Games began Friday evening by getting disqualified in the 500 meters. He finished the evening by adding a page to his history book, winning a bronze in the U.S. team's 5,000-meter relay. For his career, that was medal number eight, extending his mark for the most career medals by a U.S. Olympian in the history of the Winter Olympics. He had set the record with his seventh earlier in the week, passing long-track legend BonnieBlair.
Ohno's up-and-down night began with a jump that would have made figure skaters proud. In the 500-meter quarterfinals, Ohno was stalking the skaters in front of them with three laps to go when two of them, TysonHeung of Germany and ThibaultFauconnet of France collided and went down in front of him, Ohno did an impromptu one-legged leap past the fallen foes and managed to qualify second behind Britain's Jon Eley.
Ohno then won his semifinal, a race that eliminated two Korean rivals, Kwak Yoon-Gy and Lee Ho-Suk.
By the time he reached the 500 final, Ohno said he felt the accumulation of races in his legs. "In our sport, we compete from the very beginning to the end and the body gets fatigued," he said. "When I woke up this morning, I felt pretty good. When I got to the rink, I felt pretty good. When the gun went off, I felt like I started a nuclear reactor, I was so slow."
Still, Ohno put himself in position to reach another podium. On the final lap, he tried to cut inside Canada's Francois-Louis Tremblay for a clean pass. Instead, he made contact with Tremblay, taking him out of the race. At almost the same time, South Korea's Sung Si-Bak also brushed Charles Hamelin, the Canadian supersprinter who was considered a pre-race favorite. Sung also went into the padded wall, leaving the referees to rule on the two collisions as Ohno crossed the line in second place. In the end, they disqualified only Ohno for impeding, leaving Hamelin, Sung and Tremblay on the medal stand.
"I was fourth the whole way and there was no space to move up," Ohno said. "I kept waiting and waiting and, on the last corner, I ran up on the Canadian guy. 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."
Later in the evening, Ohno returned with his relay team of J.R. Celski, Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone to take on a tough trio of teams from Canada, Korea and China. This was an event in which the U.S. team was thought to lack depth, since Jayner and Malone were farther down the international rankings. Again, it came down to the final lap.
This time, Ohno took a push from Celski with his team in fourth place and swung past his Chinese foe on the last lap. The Canadians celebrated with gold. Charles Hamelin won his second of the evening, with his brother Francois, Olivier Jean and Tremblay. The Koreans, who traded the lead with the Canadians all evening, finished second by two-tenths of a second and Ohno's final push gave him his third medal of the Games, each with a last-lap rally past at least one opponent. In all, he passed five skaters in the final laps of his three medal-winning races in Vancouver. This one took some planning.
"We changed our relay order at the last minute," Ohno said. "Usually Travis pushes me at the end, but the ice was getting pretty chippy at the end and fatigue was setting in with us. We made a strategic adjustment and it may have helped us pick up a medal."
The team medal was especially sweet for Celski, the 19-year-old teammate who converted to short track from in-line skating after watching Ohno at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. ""If that's his last one, it's an honor to go out and share this with him," Celski said. "As much as I'm excited for myself, I'm also jumping for joy for Apolo that gets to go out with another medal and another record. Every night, it seems like the guy changes the record books."