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Ohno’s 1,500 Quest Ends in Semifinal

Times Staff Writer

Seattle’s Apolo Anton Ohno, who won gold in short-track speedskating in the 1,500 meters four years ago in Salt Lake City, didn’t even make it to the finals in the same event here Sunday night.

Ohno lost his balance and momentum in the semifinals when his left hand hit the blade of the Chinese skater ahead of him.

“Today wasn’t my day to win,” he said afterward.

South Korean Hyun-Soo Ahn, world champion in the 1,500 for the last three years, won Olympic gold in 2 minutes 25.341 seconds. Another South Korean, rising star Ho-Suk Lee, 19, earned silver, in 2:25.600. Li JiaJun of China, silver medalist in 2002, came to Turin at the ripe old age of 30 to claim bronze, in 2:26.005.

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Like Ohno, the other U.S. racer, Alex Izykowski, 21, of Bay City, Mich., was eliminated in the semifinals.

In other competition Sunday night in the Palavela, in the preliminaries in the women’s 500 meters, Hyo-Jung (Halie) Kim of Colorado Springs and Allison Baver of Reading, Pa., Ohno’s girlfriend, advanced into Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

“One step at a time,” Baver said.

So too did 20-year-old Wang Meng of China, the 2004-05 World Cup winner; Fu Tianyu of China, the 2004-05 World Cup runner-up, and Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria, the silver medal winner in the 500 at the 2002 Games.

China has won at least one medal in the women’s 500 since the Albertville Olympics in 1992.

In the women’s 3,000 meters, the U.S. team was eliminated. China, Canada, South Korea and Italy advanced to the Feb. 22 final.

Ohno, 23, soul patch and all, the object of enormous pre-Games hype, just as in Salt Lake City four years ago, again was among the medal favorites in the 1,500. But he beat himself.

Heading around the third turn of the next-to-last lap, Ohno, skating with Li Ye of China ahead of the pack, caught his left hand on the back tip of Li’s skate.

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Thrown off balance, Ohno staggered, nearly fell, didn’t -- but, by then, had “lost a lot of speed and,” as he said, “that pretty much was the end of it.”

Baver said, “It really breaks my heart to see because he is the best skater in the world, in my eyes.”

Ohno is scheduled to skate in three more events, the 500, 1,000 and the 5,000-meter relay. He will skate next on Wednesday, in the prelims of the 1,000 and the relay.

“I’ve prepared myself physically and mentally the best I can,” he said late Sunday night. “The Olympics aren’t over and hopefully I can finish that perfect race.”

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