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Ohno is ready to defend his record in the 1,500 meters

By Maria Titze
Deseret News Olympics specialist

      Apolo Anton Ohno was back at practice Tuesday afternoon and prepared, his coaches say, to race in the event in which he holds the world record.
      Ohno, who suffered a 1 1/2-inch cut to his left thigh Saturday night during a fall at the 1,000-meter final, skipped practice only Sunday.
      "I always feel pain. That is part of the sport," Ohno, still nursing six stitches, said after Monday's practice session.
      U.S. coach Susan Ellis said he skated a little more Tuesday than Monday. "Come race night, he's going to be thinking about the race, not his leg," she said.
      Short-track speedskating begins tonight with heats in the men's 1,500 meter, a length of race that is making its debut these Winter Games.
      Although Ohno calls the 1,000 meter his favorite, his gold at the Olympic qualifiers here in Salt Lake City in October came in the 1,500 meter where he bested Korea's Dong-Sung Kim — no easy task, since Kim has lost that race only once in five World Cup competitions this season.
      Kim, who won two medals in the 1998 Games in Nagano, leads the points standings for this distance in the world.
      Australian sensation Steven Bradbury, who took the gold medal here Saturday after all his race mates fell in the 1,000-meter final, will have to face Kim in the first heat of the 1,500 meter.
      Other medal hopefuls in this distance are China's Jiajun Li, Italy's Fabio Carta, Canada's Marc Gagnon and another Korean athlete, Seung-Jae Lee. America's Rusty Smith will also compete.
      The women will begin their battle for medals in the 1,000 meter tonight, skating their early heats before a Saturday final. Once again, China's Yang Yang (A) is favored. She dominated the World Cup circuits this season in the distance, medaling in four of the five races and setting the world record.
      Other contenders are Korea's Eun-Kyung Choi and Gi-Hyan Ko, as well as Chikage Tanaka of Japan. Bulgaria's Evgenia Radanova has two medals this Olympics already and could move into medal contention in this last women's individual event, too.
      Skating for the American team will be Erin Porter and Caroline Hallisey. Hallisey made it to the final Saturday in the 500 meter, redeeming herself after a disastrous fall in the first lap of the women's 3,000-meter relay that cost her team a shot at Wednesday's final.
      Ellis said Hallisey had her best lap time ever in practice Tuesday morning and believes she's got a shot at an individual medal in the longer distance.
      "Caroline doesn't have the greatest start in the world, as we saw the other night, but in the 1,000-meter, it's not as important," Ellis said.
      As far as the women's relay final, it will be a rematch of the same race in Nagano. Korea won Olympic gold four years ago, and four years before that. But Korea has a new roster of skaters now, and China holds the world record.
      In other short track news, the International Skating Union has rejected Japan's request to repeal Satoru Terao's disqualification Saturday in the men's 1,000-meter semifinal race.
      But Japanese officials told reporters Tuesday they will continue their campaign to change short-track officiating rules.

E-MAIL: [email protected]
Deseret News staff writer Seth Lewis contributed to this report.

February 20, 2002

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