by Ralph Routon
Never in Apolo Anton Ohno's career has a bronze medal tasted so good. Because this one made history.
Ohno, who spent much of his earlier short-track speedskating years living and training in Colorado Springs, won the bronze with a dramatic comeback finish Saturday night in the men's 1,000 meters. That gives him seven career Olympic medals and puts him No. 1 on the list for the most career medals by any American in the Winter Games.
"It feels amazing," Ohno said. "I really had to fight."
But it nearly didn't happen. In an incredibly stacked final race against two Koreans, ranked Nos. 1 and 4 in the world and scheming tactically, plus two brothers from Canada who had many in the screaming crowd at Pacific Coliseum cheering for them, Ohno was the odd man out strategically.
He was a strong second toward the end of the race, then briefly slipped and, with just two laps remaining, Ohno was fifth and last.
But the 27-year-old staged a frenzied comeback, passing Canada's Francois Hamelin first, then Charles Hamelin, to finish third for the bronze. Korea's Lee Jung-Su won the gold, and Lee Ho-Suk the silver.
"I can't wait to watch the tape of that," Ohno said. But he waited to celebrate, holding a flag but not waving it, until the result became official.
Ohno's seventh medal pushed him out of a tie with former long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair, who had six in her career that spanned 1988, 1992 and 1994.
Blair was in attendance Saturday, congratulated Ohno afterward and said: "I'm very happy for Apolo's accomplishment. It's a great feat for him, U.S. Speedskating and the United States of America. We hope that more kids will see his accomplishments and want to try our great sport."
Also in the crowd was Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the hero of the 2008 Beijing Simmer Games with eight gold medals, making him the most-decorated Summer Games athlete with 14 in his career.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun released a statement, saying, "Apolo's medal today is truly a testament to his hard work, his dedication, and his commitment to reaching his dreams. He has created a lasting legacy, not just for his medals won, but for the sportsmanship and character he has displayed throughout his quest."
J.R. Celski, who spent most of the past year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs rehabilitating from a severe cut to his right leg, advanced to the semifinals but crashed and was disqualified, leaving him eighth overall.
Ohno's seven Olympic medals:
o 2002 - 1500m - gold
o 2002 - 1000m - silver
o 2006 - 500m - gold
o 2006 - 1000m - bronze
o 2006 - 5000m relay - bronze
o 2010 - 1500m - silver
o 2010 - 1000m - bronze
Ohno still could win more medals here in the 500 meters, which he won in 2006, and the 5,000-meter relay.