Mark Duncan, Associated Press
Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno will face the powerful South Koreans again.

TORINO, Italy — Break out the soul patches. Everybody's favorite flowing-haired heartthrob from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics is back.

Apolo Anton Ohno renews his rivalry with the powerful South Koreans, who are still smarting over his disputed short track speedskating victory four years ago.

The sport's best known face, thanks to the wisp of hair under his chin, Ohno will try to defend his title in the 1,500 meters when competition begins Sunday.

The American finished second in 2002, but won a gold when Kim Dong-sung was called for illegally blocking as Ohno tried to pass on the final turn.

While Kim picked up a South Korean flag and began celebrating, the head judge skated over with the results: gold for Ohno, disqualification for Kim.

No appeals are allowed in short track, but South Korean fans were quick to vocalize their opinions. Thousands of angry e-mails poured into the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Ohno said the way the rivalry has been portrayed is "misguided."

"It's more like all of us versus everybody," he said.

This time, Ohno will have to contend with South Korean Ahn Hyun-soo, the world record-holder and reigning world champion. Ohno and Ahn split four World Cup races this season, each winning two.

Another South Korean, Lee Ho-suk, joins Ahn as a medal contender in his Olympic debut. Lee has never won a major 1,500 race, but he was never worse than third during World Cup competition.

The men's race is the highlight of the opening night of short track, expected to be one of the hottest tickets in Torino. A big part of the high-speed sport's appeal is the jostling and crashes.

Four years ago, Ohno and Ahn tangled in a famous crash in the 1,000. China's Li Jiajun caught his skate on Ohno's while trying to pass and spun out. That sent Ohno sliding into Ahn, and both went down, wiping out Mathieu Turcotte of Canada.

That cleared the ice for Steven Bradbury to win Australia's first gold at a Winter Games. Ohno got up and crossed the finish line on his hands and knees for silver. Li was disqualified and Ahn finished fourth.

While the men race for medals Sunday, the women will skate in preliminaries of the 500 and 3,000 relay.

China's Wang Meng is the heavy favorite for gold in the 500. She won all four World Cup races this season. Her heralded teammate, Yang Yang, is the defending champion, but isn't competing at the distance.

Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria, the 2002 silver medalist, is the world record-holder in the sprint event. She will enjoy home-ice advantage, having trained with the Italian team the last four years.