Ohno wins controversial gold

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Apolo Ohno got bumped on the last lap again Wednesday night, only this time he got the call and the gold medal.

Korea's Kim Dong-Sung, the apparent winner of the men's 1,500 short-track skating event, was disqualified for cross-tracking the American skater. His number was taken down and runnerup Ohno's put up for his first gold medal four days after being knocked off his feet just 15 meters from victory in Saturday's 1,000 event.

Making an inside move on Kim with just a half-lap to go, Ohno was greeted with a restraining elbow and pulled back visibly. The Korean led the rest of the way and was doing a victory lap with flag in hand when he learned of the disqualification.

Kim threw his flag down in disgust while Ohno fell to his knees. Later, he said he anticipated the official's ruling.

"I'd made a nice move, set the Korean up real nice, but then he just came over on me a little too hard,'' Ohno said.

"I believe it's called cross-tracking,'' Ohno added. "I came out of the corner (and into the final backstretch) with great acceleration, came upon him real tight, got inside and he just moved over on me, changed my track a little bit. It was a good call.''

Cross-tracking is defined as improperly crossing the course of, or in any way interferring with the path of another racer. The ultimate decision was made by an Australian referee, James Hewish.

It no doubt will be viewed differently in two different continents. It's a good thing President George Bush left Korea late Wednesday.

The largely American crowd at the Delta Center booed mightily as Kim took his victory lap, cheered on by a small but enthusiastic Korean delegation. The response changed dramatically when Hewish's decision was posted.

"It was clear to me that the call was right,'' said Ohno, the world record holder in the event who said he had been disqualified himself for a similar move. "I had a good line inside, and when he came down on me, I had to stand up or we'd have hit.''

Others saw it differently. Italian Fabio Carta credited Ohno with being a good actor. Even Australian Steven Bradbury, who designs Ohno's racing skates, said he disagreed with Kim's disqualification.

Ohno trailed at the back of the 13 1/2 lap race until making his move with just under two laps remaining. He found a hole on the inside, passed three other skaters and placed himself second to Kim for the fateful last lap-and-a-half.

"I was trying to wait as long as possible, as there seemed to be a lot of traffic,'' Ohno said. "Maybe I waited too long.''

The controversy is nothing new to Ohno, the Delta Center or skating in the Olympics.

At the U.S. trials in January, Ohno was accused of allowing a friend, Shani Davis, to finish ahead of him in a race to secure his spot on the Olympic team.

"It's something I've come to accept,'' Ohno said of the controversy that seems to surround him, even in a relatively lightly followed sport. "People are going to say things about me no matter the outcome.''

Ohno appeared to show no ill effects from the cut he received Saturday in the fall that cost him a gold medal in the 1,000 meters.

The Seattle native cruised in two qualifying races, taking second in both. He skated a 2:26.8 in the quarterfinals, and went 2:25.15 in the semifinals, a full 10 seconds slower than top qualifier Kim.

He has two more chances at medals Saturday, one in a relay.

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