VANCOUVER, British Columbia – It was lucky number eight for American Apolo Anton Ohno, who broke his own record Winter Olympic medal haul on Friday night with a bronze in the 5,000 meter short track relay.
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Bronze medalist Apolo Ohno holds up eight fingers to signify his tally of Olympic medals.
For the most decorated American Winter Olympian ever, an eighth medal could be a perfect career cap. Mr. Ohno skates with the number eight on his boots, and started a nutritional supplement company called Eight Zone.
During the medal ceremony, he formed the number eight with his fingers for the cameras. "This has been quite the epic journey," he said.
Canada took the gold in a clean race that had an unusual five teams, instead of four, on the track simultaneously. Korea won silver. Less than 0.3 seconds separated the first and third.
The U.S. team's bronze-medal win gives the U.S. 34 medals in hand, with two more assured in men's ice hockey and men's long-track team pursuit. That gives Team USA no less than 36 medals for these Games -- equaling the record for most medals won by a single nation at an Olympic Winter Games, which was set by Germany in Salt Lake City.
The U.S. was a dark horse in the short track relay, since Mr. Ohno had long been considered the team's only world-class skater. But Mr. Ohno was helped in the relay by the emergence of a new American star, 19-year-old J.R. Celski.
The U.S. team had been behind much of the race, but a final shove by Mr. Celski pushed Mr. Ohno – and the team -- into third place. "Right when I did that, I knew he could handle business from there," said Mr. Celski, who won two bronze medals in Vancouver.
He downplayed comparisons between himself and Mr. Ohno. "I don't feel that any torch is being passed off. I was just happy to be out here and have fun," he said.
With his three-medal haul in Vancouver, the 27-year-old Mr. Ohno proved he was not too old to compete seriously. "I'm in the best shape of my life. I feel the best I've ever skated," he said.
Earlier on Friday, he nearly came in second in the 500 meter race, but was disqualified after bumping into Canadian Francois-Louis Tremblay in the final seconds of the race.
"I had so much speed. I put my hand up to not run into the Canadian in front of me. I guess the judge saw something we didn't see," he said. "In this sport, I learned over many years and through life in general that you only have control over certain things."
These Games may mark the end of the road for Mr. Ohno's speed skating career. In addition to his company, he is also a TV star off the ice through appearances on shows such as "Dancing With The Stars."
Following Friday night's relay, he wasn't ready to discuss what's next. "I'm not thinking anything past tomorrow," he said. Asked whether he would retire, he responded, "It's too early to say."
"I never say never. This sport has been so good to me. But I will tell you I would definitely take a long break – a needed one."
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