Short track speed skating at the Sochi Olympics will be a far different competition than four years ago.
It will be missing the most decorated men’s Olympic skater of all time with the retirement of Apolo Ohno and likely to be without the most decorated woman, China’s Wang Meng, following Thursday’s news.
Ohno will cover short track for NBC Olympics in Sochi and spoke with NBC Olympics’ Willie Cornblatt about the international threats for medals in Sochi.
Ohno has particular knowledge of Russian star Viktor Ahn, the former Ahn Hyun-Soo of South Korea. Ahn won triple gold for South Korea at the 2006 Olympics, missing a sweep by losing to Ohno in the 500m, was injured and didn’t make the 2010 team and switched affiliation to Russia for Sochi.
Here’s what Ohno had to say about Ahn:
So Ahn and I have been skating with each other since 2002, we went all the way through until he actually got injured pre-Vancouver, and he probably would’ve been on that team. In my eyes, Viktor Ahn, as he’s now called, is the most beautiful short track skating athlete in the world in terms of his technique and the way he skates. He’s so good in fact– we have a 3000m in World Cups, we don’t have that race in the Olympic level, so it’s a 27 lap race, it’s very slow in the beginning. I used to follow this kid just to watch him skate. Think about this, I’m trying to beat this kid, I’m watching him skate thinking, ‘this kid skates amazing.’ I always said in my head that if he ever figures out how to beat me and my weaknesses, it’s going to be very hard to get that back from him, and we traded back and forth multiple times.
As far as a redemption story, I think it’s phenomenal. The kid went through a lot in terms of injury, through his own federation, and he made a huge gamble going to Russia and competing for an alternate country. For me, personally, I would never consider that, but I do appreciate where he’s coming from, it shows his passion and love for what he’s doing in the sport. He may not be as good as he used to be, he may not have the same technique as he used to have, but what I like now about Viktor Ahn is he’s skating for himself, he’s not being pushed or pressured by the coaches, he’s skating because he really, really wants to win and he really loves the sport, and that, to me, shows the epitome of why athletes are so cool.
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.
Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.
The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.