SALT LAKE CITY -- Apolo Anton Ohno's bid for four gold medals will fall short.
"Fall" is the definitive word after the American short-track speed skating star was one of four skaters who went down on the final curve of the men's 1,000 meters Saturday night. With four of his five competitors on the ice, Australia's Steven Bradbury skated through the carnage unscatched to take the gold medal.
"I was in fourth position, kind of dying and trying to catch up, when people started going down in front of me,'' said Bradbury, who described himself as very fortunate to win. "I said, 'Hang on, this can't be right. I think I just won!'
"Obviously, I'm not the fastest skater. So I was just riding in the back hoping for a collision or accident,'' Bradbury added wryly. "Those were my tactics, and they worked like a charm.''
Ohno, who took the lead with three laps to go and held it until the multi-car pileup at the end, got up to finish second.
The last lap was short-track speed skating at its bumper-car best.
Heading into the final turn, Ohno and China's Li Jiajun exchanged elbows, with Jiajun getting the worst of it and being sent to the ice.
But then coming off the the same turn, with the gold medal just 15 meters away, Korea's Hyun-Soo Ahn tried to pass Ohno on the inside. The American slid down to cut him off, and Ahn reached out and put an arm into Ohno. Both men went down, as did Canada's Mattieu Turcotte, and Bradbury suddenly had an open path to the finish line.
"Freakish,'' Bradbury said of his victory. "Whether I deserve to win the gold medal, unlike people who didn't have the luck I did, I'll have to think about that.''
Ohno sustained a cut on his inner thigh that required six stitches. He was walking with the aid of crutches afterward, but said he thought he would be ready for his next race Wednesday.
"I actually thought it was one of the best races of my life,'' Ohno said. "It's unfortunate that I got taken out in the last corner, but that's short-track, the sport I live for. When I got off the ice, I was happy with the performance, no matter what medal I got.''
It was, everyone acknowledged afterward, one of the strangest endings to any short-track race -- especially given that it happened on the international stage.
It also was one of the few races Saturday where Ohno was in command for more than two laps.
He made his quarterfinal race interesting. Needing at least a second-place finish to advance to the semifinals, he was cruising in third place with two laps remaining when, looking like Marshall Faulk smelling the end zone, he shot though a small hole along the inside edge of the track and won the heat.
But his 1:28.65 qualifying time was slower than any of the other three heat winners.
In the semifinals, Ohno also waited to make his move, With two laps to go, he bolted through a small hole on the inside of the track and won his heat.
But the other men's semifinals was classic roller derby.
Defending Olympic gold medalist Kim Dong-Sung slipped and fell heading into the final curve, and Olympic record holder Turcotte went down coming out of the final turn.
But after examining the replay, the judges disqualified Japan's Satoru Terao for impeding and elevated Turcotte into the final even though he fell.
In the women's 500, China's Yang Yang A won the gold medal, with American Caroline Hallisey finishing fifth.
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