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Ohno finishes second, then first as winner is disqualified

U.S. short-track star is cut off by a Korean in 1,500 and earns first gold.

By JOHN ROMANO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 21, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Tired of David Pelletier and Jamie Sale? Sick of the judging controversy in figure skating?

Need a new scandal over which to obsess?

If you'll pardon the pun, we have your fix.

Apolo Anton Ohno was awarded the gold medal in the 1,500-meter short track race Wednesday night after Korean Dong-Sung Kim was disqualified.

Kim, who was listed on official race documents afterward as the new Olympic record holder with a time of 2:15.94, was celebrating his victory and waving the Korean flag when referee James Hewish of Australia disqualified him for blocking Ohno on the final lap.

The crowd, which was booing the finish, began cheering when the disqualification was announced. Kim turned to the scoreboard to see the decision. He threw the flag to the ice and kicked a starting block while Ohno dropped to his knees in celebration.

Ohno then skated to the bleachers to hug his father.

"We should use a rifle on Ohno," fourth-place finisher Fabio Carta of Italy said while watching a replay of the race. "It's absurd that the Korean was disqualified."

The chef de mission for the Korean delegation said he would appeal to the International Skating Union today. The ISU investigated the alleged vote-trading scandal in pairs figure skating, which led to Pelletier and Sale being awarded a second set of gold medals.

A collision on the final lap of the 1,000-meter race cost Ohno a gold medal on Saturday. So perhaps it was fitting he won gold Wednesday because of a near-collision on the final lap of the 1,500.

"Personally, I felt he really did come over on me," Ohno said. "People can say what they want. Deep down, I know what happened."

Ohno, who was skating with six stitches in his left thigh as a result of Saturday's collision, was in the back of the pack for most of the 1,500.

He made a move into second place with three laps remaining and then made two unsuccessful attempts to pass inside. Kim drifted slightly off the inside track on the last lap and, when Ohno tried to move inside, the Korean moved over slightly to block him. Ohno raised his arms and came out of his crouch.

"I had to stand up and slow down or we would have hit," Ohno said.

The Delta Center crowd, seeing Ohno raise up after the near-collision, booed loudly as Kim crossed the finish line.

Ohno was asked if he thought the crowd's displeasure played a role in the referee's decision.

"I don't think so," he said. "I think it was pretty clear to see the call was clean."

It is considered illegal cross-tracking if a skater "in any way interferes with another competitor." The referee who made the decision is the same referee who officiated the 1,000 race Saturday.

"I complained about the decision but they did not accept it," Korean coach Myung-Kyu Jun said.

Ohno said he was not sure if he made contact with Kim.

Other skaters said the call was not clear-cut either way.

"Whether Dong-Sung moved across enough to be called for cross-tracking, I don't know," said 1,000 gold medal winner Steven Bradbury of Australia. "He obviously moved across a bit. It's the judge's interpretation. A lot of people will say it was right and a lot of people will say it's wrong.

"I've seen moves like that before that were not called. But I've seen them called too."

Ohno was not the only one to benefit from the call. China's Jiajun Li moved from bronze to silver and Canada's Marc Gagnon was awarded bronze.

"I respect the decision of the referee," Li said. "I'm not going to say any more."

Other than perhaps Michelle Kwan and Picabo Street, Ohno came into the Games as the most recognizable winter athlete in the United States: a dominant performer with a rebel image and multi-cultural good looks.

It was suggested he might put on a performance to rival Eric Heiden's five speed skating golds in 1980.

That hope was wiped out, along with Ohno, when he crashed with three other skaters on the final lap of the 1,500. Ohno recovered quickly enough to stumble across the finish line for a silver medal.

With the 500 individual race and the 5,000 relay coming up Saturday, Ohno still could leave Salt Lake City with four medals.

"I just gave my best and I shined, like a star or something," Ohno said. "I saw my chance and I took it."

The U.S. women's 3,000-meter relay team finished seventh in Wednesday night's finals. It was the second Olympics in a row the women's team failed to earn a medal after getting silver in 1992 and bronze in '94.

In the heats for the women's 1,000 race, Caroline Hallisey of Natick, Mass., advanced to Saturday's quarterfinals.

You lose if ...

Intentionally pushing, obstructing or colliding with another racer calls for the offender's disqualification. Improperly crossing the course -- cross-tracking -- is also prohibited.

Lead skater has the right of way and the passing skater must avoid body contact.

Skaters also are disqualified for changing lanes or altering their course at the finish. Competitors are required to skate in a straight line from the end of the corner to the finish line. Veering inside or outside to maintain the lead is grounds for disqualification.

-- Sources: U.S. Speedskating and Speedskating Canada

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