SAY THIS for Apolo Ohno: The aspiring actor knows how to build suspense. Last Saturday night, for the second time in two finals, Ohno rallied from back in the pack on the last lap to earn a short-track skating medal. His late rush to the bronze in the 1,000 meters packed additional excitement in that it gave him seven medals for his career, one more than long-track skater Bonnie Blair, and made him the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian in history.
With just under three laps to go, Ohno lost his footing when he was pushed in the back while rounding a corner by Canada's François Hamelin and dropped from second place to last among the five skaters. There was no catching front-running South Koreans Lee Jung-su and Lee Ho-suk, but Ohno kept his focus, scrambled back into position and passed Hamelin and his brother Charles to pull himself onto the podium. "Once I kept myself from falling, I had already lost like 30 percent of my speed," Ohno said. "[But] the race isn't over until the end." That was never truer than in the 1,500-meter event a week earlier, when Lee Ho-suk and fellow Korean Sung Si-bak collided a half lap from the finish and slid off course, clearing the way for Ohno to take silver and tie Blair's record.
The rousing performances in Vancouver have further sparked Ohno's ever-expanding fan base. He spends part of his downtime responding to supporters' messages on his Twitter page. "It's a healthy distraction," says Ohno, who often posts words of inspiration there. "I wanted to let people into my head, to let people see me and to feel their energy."
Before Saturday's race a sampling of the banners in the stands at Pacific Coliseum read, OHNO IS UNO and IT'S APOLO'S WORLD. WE'RE JUST VISITING. During the 1,000 final, one especially boisterous fan led a chorus of roars that carried Ohno across the finish line and onto a new level of distinction. A hoarse Michael Phelps appreciated the chance to watch a fellow American make history.