Apolo Ohno

Remembering South Korea’s ‘Ohno celebration’ at 2002 World Cup

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One of the most memorable intersections of the World Cup and the Olympics occurred in 2002, when South Korea and Japan hosted the world’s biggest soccer tournament four months after the U.S. hosted the Winter Games.

In that World Cup, the U.S. and South Korea played a group-stage match to a 1-1 tie in the South Korean city of Daegu (which would hold the 2011 World Track and Field Championships).

The equalizer in that match came from South Korean substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan, whose header beat U.S. goalie Brad Friedel in the 78th minute (video here).

Ahn sprinted toward a corner after scoring, amid a cauldron of cheers from some 60,000 South Koreans, and broke into a unique celebration.

He came to a stop, leaned forward and made overt striding motions with his arms and legs. The meaning behind it wasn’t immediately apparent to ESPN commentators Jack Edwards and Ty Keough — Edwards referred to Ahn’s gesture 10 minutes after the goal on the broadcast — but had to be to any ardent fan of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Ahn was throwing shade at U.S. short track speed skater Apolo Ohno (then better known as Apolo Anton Ohno).

In the 2002 Olympics, Ohno won his first career gold medal in the 1500m final despite not crossing the finish line first. South Korean Kim Dong-Sung beat Ohno but was disqualified for cross-tracking, a fate he learned while carrying a South Korean flag in a victory celebration.

source: Getty Images
Ahn’s teammates joined the celebration after his 78th-minute goal. (Getty Images)

Kim memorably slammed the flag onto the ice. The controversial decision apparently lingered in South Korea through the spring and into the first World Cup hosted in Asia. Some reports from a decade ago:

* During the Winter Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee received so much hate mail in the hours after the DQ that its computer system crashed. (New York Times)

* Ohno said he received death threats.

* A Seoul newspaper dubbed him “the most hated athlete in South Korea.” (Ohno’s autobiography)

* Ohno skipped a short track World Cup stop in South Korea in 2003. When he later returned for a competition in South Korea, he was accompanied by 100 police officers in riot gear at the airport. (NYT)

* Ohno’s reaction was to laugh it off, saying Ahn needed to work on his technique. It was “unfortunate that they’re lingering on something that wasn’t even my decision,” he told the Seattle Times. (AP)

* The U.S. team, which made an inspiring run to the quarterfinals, was unaware what Ahn’s celebration meant. “Is that what he was doing?” said Landon Donovan, who was 20 and playing in his first World Cup. “It’s kind of a joke. Why do you have to do that? It has no relevance to this game.” (AP)

* “We knew that our people still have some grudge against the United States for the skating incident, so we wanted to allay that with the goal ceremony,” Ahn told reporters after the game.

Photos: Apolo Ohno completes Ironman 70.3 Boise

Watch ‘Race’ film about Jesse Owens teaser video

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“Race,” a film about Olympic sprint legend Jesse Owens, will hit theaters Feb. 19.

Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin 1936 Olympics in the face of Nazi Germany, is played by Stephan James in the film.

Jason Sudeikis and Jeremy Irons are also in the cast for the Focus Features film, according to reports. Sudeikis will reportedly play Owens’ coach, Larry Snyder. Irons will play Avery Brundage, then the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

MORE TRACK AND FIELD: Angelina Jolie discusses her decision to use Jesse Owens in ‘Unbroken’

Meryl Davis, Charlie White wait for right feeling for possible return

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  (L-R) Olympic gold medalists and airweave ambassadors Charlie White and Meryl Davis formally open Rockefeller Center's iconic ice rink on October 13, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage)
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NEW YORK — When Meryl Davis sees that photo, that tight feeling returns.

The picture, taken by a U.S. Figure Skating team leader, captured Davis and ice dance partner Charlie White, as they waited in between a warm-up and one of their programs at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi Olympics.

Davis and White haven’t competed since becoming the first U.S. Olympic ice dance champions on Feb. 17, 2014. They’ve continued to skate in the 603 days since, in shows and at events such as the opening of The Rink at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday morning.

How often do they think about returning to competition?

“Only when you guys [the media] are asking,” White said Tuesday. “I don’t mean to be flippant. I literally don’t think about it.”

But they feel it, such as the nervousness as spectators inside the Shanghai Sports Center on March 25, watching their former peers perform the World Championships short dance.

“We still felt really invested in the competition,” Davis said.

Or when Davis comes across that picture from Sochi.

White, too, remembers that tight feeling just before the biggest competition of their lives.

“Full-on, you’re thinking to yourself like, if I run away right now, how mad will everyone be,” said White, seated to the left of Davis, his ice dance partner of nearly 20 years, at the Rock Center Café on Tuesday afternoon. “You’re so terrified because of what the moment represents. You can’t escape it. It’s like the Eye of Sauron [from “Lord of the Rings”].”

Davis and White announced in March what many suspected, that they would not compete in the 2015-16 season.

The decision came easily.

“It wasn’t, like, an answer we had to search for,” White said Tuesday. “It wasn’t something where we had to sit down and even have a conversation. We just knew.”

Their stance about the future has not changed. Davis and White are open to returning, if the feeling is right.

“We’re just not on that clock right now, and it’s really nice,” Davis said. “I think we’ll just wait for it to just pop up one day. We’ll just wait for an epiphany.”

White said they will sense it together, if and when it comes.

“The feeling that we need to have to be able to get onto the ice and push through that brick wall every single day,” he said, joking that feeling occured about 15 times per day leading into Sochi but now passes about once every 20 days.

What’s clear is that Davis and White would not leave a run for their third Olympics to the last minute.

White said they would probably have to return no later than halfway through the 2016-17 season if the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games are their target.

Many athletes say they would need a full season of competition going into an Olympic year, but that’s not a requirement for Davis and White.

“Especially with the fact that we’re still skating, we’re still in front of people, we’ve skated together for 20 years,” White said. “Our speed, our power, explosion, it’s not going anywhere for 10 years.”

White, who turns 28 on Oct. 24, then paused and chuckled.

“Maybe seven years,” he said.

Longtime training partners and Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Vancouver 2010 gold medalists and Sochi silver medalists, also haven’t competed since the Olympics. They reportedly plan to decide if they’ll come back before the 2016-17 season.

Ice dance evolved during the couples’ break. In Shanghai, France’s Gabriella Papadakis, then 19, and Guillaume Cizeron, then 20, became the youngest World champions in the event in 40 years.

Davis and White watched the Worlds free dance on March 27 on a tablet while in a car en route to a hotel. They saw Papadakis and Cizeron jump from fourth after the short dance to first to supplant U.S. Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

“We’re not that far removed from being out there with them,” White said.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Japan Open sees return of one star, rise of another to ignite figure skating season