Korean Jung-Su Lee took the Olympic gold medal in the 1500m men’s Short Track Speed Skating on Saturday. Apolo Anton Ohno (USA), the 2002 Olympic champion on this distance, finished in second place, his compatriot J.R. Celski took the bronze.
The A-final at the packed Pacific Coliseum Saturday consisted of seven skaters. Three Korean skaters, Jung-Su Lee, Si-Bak Sung and Ho-Suk Lee, two Americans Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski, Chinese Wenhao Liang and Canadian Jean Olivier made up the field. The Canadian Charles Hamelin, who had been previously thumbed as a favorite, did not make it through the semifinals. Olivier, to the delight of the home crowd, was advanced to the A-final after he was brought to fall in his semifinal race. The Canadian was loudly cheered by the audience in the Pacific Coliseum when he took an early lead. However, soon Ohno moved to the head of the pack. Jung-Su Lee tried to overtake him on the outside, but Ohno maneuvered outwards to prevent that. Sung made the most of the gap and overtook him through the inside. The Koreans showed good cooperation here and soon Jung-Su Lee had also overtaken Ohno, followed shortly afterwards by the third Korean. In the final laps, the three Koreans looked good for three medals, however in the final turn Ho-Suk Lee tried to gain on his third place. In an attempt to overtake Sung, he fell and took Sung down with him. While the two Koreans were sliding into the safety pads, Ohno with Celski on his heels slipped over the finish line in silver and bronze positions respectively. Ohno signaled ‘6’, indicating that with his 6 th Olympic medal he has become the most decorated short track speed skater in history.
The 20 year old gold medalist, Jung-Su Lee later said “I thought we would get three medals for Korea – because of the mistake that was made we didn’t get other medals, that was unlucky, otherwise I’m happy with my medal.”
“Short Track is very unpredictable, even with a lot of practice. I put a lot of effort into this game, and wanted to put the best performance into this game and am happy about it.”
The 27 year old silver medalist Apolo Anton Ohno commented: “I am very happy, skated a very aggressive race, battling with some of the best skaters in the world. I was very relaxed all day and confident with my preparation and race. There was a lot of contact during the entire race. I lost speed earlier in the race when bumping into Si-Bak and thought that there was a good chance of disqualifications, so I did not worry in the final laps.”
J.R. Celski (John Robert but always called J.R.) had suffered a serious leg injury last September when he cut his knee deeply during a fall. He is 19 years old and missed the minimum age requirement at the previous Olympics by 17 days. His reaction was: “I’m just ecstatic to be here”.