Tag Archives: short track

Apolo Ohno on Soccer Talk Live. True Story.

On Monday nights the Fox Soccer Channel features Soccer Talk Live, hosted by Kyle Martino a former MLS and national team player. Martino sits at a weird box desk in a faux locker room set hung with various team kits. It’s  little lacklustre, but you know… I mean honestly, how many people are actually watching this show? The jerseys might be the most expensive items on set.

Honestly. Sorry.

At any rate, Soccer Talk Live somewhat inexplicably featured a “Words to Bumble” favorite this week: Dear Apolo Ohno, why-oh-why did you just happen to “stop by?”

Oh,  you’ve finished your speedily ghostwritten autobiography entitled No Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday? Oh, OK.

He has you know. It sounds super inspirational.

I’m going to try to reign in my sarcasm which stems from my issues regarding speedily ghostwritten autobiographies in general, because as you probably know (assuming you have read this fantastic blog before), I’m a big Ohno fan. It’s just hard to lose the sarcasm once Kyle Martino has actually used this line on television: “[Stay tuned as]… Apolo Ohno skates by.”

It was a decent interview, although mildly inexplicable when pondering why on earth Ohno is promoting on a soccer talk show. I mean… it worked for me, but I’m a little odd.

He talked about his experience working on the autobiography, joking that half the book was written in the sauna, which is where (a) as an athlete he spends a lot of time and (b) he likes to meditate on life. So apparently his ghostwriter did a lot of following around, working out and sauna-ing with Ohno 8-10 hours a day.

Actually, maybe he wasn’t joking.

But moving forward from book promotions, I bring you Ohno’s schpeel on soccer:

“I’ve always been a soccer fan, and I think the coolest thing  about soccer now, was this past World Cup—I think for me, and you guys may think differently—but for me as an outsider, looking at the sport I saw for the first time, I think domestically, as a nation people were saying ‘hey this is a really cool sport’… People were actually, you know, they were being true fans about it. They were buying jerseys they were supporting… So to see that… I think the reason that I think that’s so cool is because I see similarities between short track. We were a small sport and you guys were not a small sport, you’re a big sport but small in the United States but then finally being recognized, I just think that’s cool.”

That’s true. Afterall, my local cocktail bar rented flat screen televisions in honor of the World Cup.

The one true soccer tie-in to Ohno’s life went down during the 2002 World Cup, months after his first Olympic games in Salt Lake where there was a disqualification of Korean skater Kim Dong-Sung resulting in gold for Ohno… Korean fans were pissed, the Olympic Committee server crashed from emails, there were death threats, etcetera. That year the World Cup was held in South Korean and Japan. When the Korean team scored against the US, Ahn Jung-Hwan led a performance of the so-called “Ohno Dance,” which involved waving their arms wildly apparently as he had done when bumped during the Olympic final.

Weirdness.

I mean I get really worked up about short track too, but then a couple of months pass and I move on with my life.

Apparently Ohno was out to dinner when he found out about his namesake “dance.” Someone to tell him to get to a television… and there it was.

Well.

I leave you with the mandatory Dancing With the Stars portion of the interview:

“First of all I had no idea what I was getting myself into; and second of all I had no idea how hard it was truly going to be. And then by about halfway through the show, that’s when I realized, ‘Ok, I better do my best to win this thing or I’m never going to be able to live it down.’ […] it would be really bad.”

So what you are saying is that Evan Lysacek must be feeling really down since he came in runner-up. Like, really down and out.

“Did you see some parallels to […] you know some of the coordination in your feet skating and trying to dance,” queried Martino.

“No,”  Ohno laughed, “zero.”

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Short Track World Championships: Relays, Super Finals & Social Media Mayhem

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This weekend I discovered how to watch obscure winter sports that have been rudely neglected by Universal Sports (which had recently made me so happy regarding the Alpine ski season), purely thanks to the wonders of social media. Between Twitter investigation and US Speed Skating on Facebook, I discovered that the TVU Networks Player carries Chinese and Korean sports channels and Tony Chung provides mucho helpful live commentary to short track events on Twitter (you know, since I am Chinese and Korean challenged).

FYIs completed, let’s move on to the action.

The Men:

The men’s team was comprised of Kyle Carr, J.R. Celski, Simon Cho, Travis Jayner and Jordan Malone. They not only gave a strong showing at these ISU World Championships, but also social media-ed it up with a lot of conversational tweeting and a couple informal live webcasts for fans… which was ‘interesting’ and definitely involved nearly toxic numbers of teenage girls, leading Cho to wonder, “How many of  you skipped school to watch this?”

As for myself: When you are an unemployed so-called writer, you can only watch so much CNN. Trust me. Also, an inquiry on Twitter did confirm that people were figuring how to get out of class in order to tune in. Distressing– particularly because it was being recorded for later viewers.

On Friday Celski and Jayner made it to the 1500 meter final along with Thibaut Fauconnet (France), Kwak Yoon-Gy, Lee Ho-Suk and Sung Si-bak (Korea). From starting position #2, Celski settled into second place at the beginning, Jayner at the back of the pack from his #6 starting position; however the 1500 meter saw a lot of movement back and forth before the finish. France, Korea and the US each had a turn in the lead–at one point Celski and Jayner were in first and second positions respectively–but the race ended in a Korean sweep: Kwak, Sung and Lee for the podium with Celski taking fourth and Jayner sixth, despite all efforts to split up the Korean team. In terms of world rankings for the 1500 meter Jayner is tenth and Celski is unranked due to that epic injury from the Olympic trials last autumn that prevented him from competing for several months; Malone– who apparently got into an argument with the ice a few times in Bulgaria– is ranked fourteenth.

Fast-forward to the 3000 meter super final on Saturday: Celski competed once more against familiar faces from the Olympics: Charles and Francois Hamelin (Canada), Kwak Yoon-Gy, Lee Ho-Suk (Korea), Liang Wenhao (China) and François-Louis Tremblay (Canada) in the longest distance individual short track event.

Celski started from position 7– which pushed him into a start line behind the other six competitors– no problem: He immediately settled into the top three working hard to keep the team of three Canadians separated. After a pace pick-up to about 44 km/hr around 1.15 Celski fought his way into first by 1.30, ahead of Tremblay. As a bonus for being in the lead at 1000 meters Celski was awarded five extra points; he would hold his position until the last lap. After the 1000 meter mark, Celski was so far ahead that the he was out of the camera shot, which was following the rest of the pack. At eight laps to go it appeared that all he had to do was hang on for the win… it was not to be. The pack slowly gained ground and by 4.20 Lee and Kwak were coming up fast from behind, the three appear to have lapped other competitors and in an unbelievable pass Lee and Kwak passed Celski to take first and second in the super final, respectively, with Celski taking the bronze. In terms of the overall results for the Championships, this meant that Celski missed the podium by a mere eight points, taking fourth. Eight. Points.

See? It’s so exciting, people should always be watching short track when it is not the Olympics!

And to close their season (it seems that although the team qualified they will not be attending the team Worlds in Torino at the end of the month), the men went ahead and took home the silver in the 5000 meter relay. If you are not familiar with the relay format, note the image and my previous post on the Olympic relays.

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The relay began with two false stats, which create visual mayhem during a relay– the ice starts to look like a public rink full of people aimlessly milling and circling about. The US started out in first quickly shifting over to Germany and then Korea, an order (Korea, Germany, USA) which was maintained for quite a while. Around 2.23 the American men passed into first place leaving Korea to hold off the Germans. The lead did not last long and at 2.40 the teams reordered: Korea, USA, Germany and China way behind. China eventually ended up getting lapped by the three leading teams. At eight laps left the Korean team was pretty far ahead of the Americans who had, in turn, broken away from the German team… AND, that is how it ended, with Team USA .03 behind the Koreans.

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And what did we learn at the medal ceremony? The flowers are presented by girls in full Bulgarian folk attire. Just thought you should know. Also, there are not a lot of spectators– shocking, I know.

The Women:

The United States was represented by Allison Baver (who did not compete due to a residual flair up of a broken leg injury from last year’s Worlds), Kimberly Derrick, Alyson Dudek, Lana Gehring and Katherine Reutter. The ladies are not quite as enamored of bonding with fans via social media, although Derrick did make a brief appearance during one several of the webcasts organized by Jordan Malone.

UniversalSports.com

Anyways, Katherine Reutter made it to the first final event of the weekend on Friday for the 1500 meter. She started from position #4, getting pushed to the back of the pack after the starting turn, settling into fourth place. As commentators repeated again and again during the Vancouver games, Reutter– unlike, for instance Apolo Ohno– hates being at the back and tends to get panicky if she cannot get into a leading position and skate offensively. Thus, Reutter pulled an impressive outside power pass into the lead. Unfortunately the efforts was not enough, or perhaps she used her energy and power up too early, because the three Korean women pushed her back into fourth again, where she finished behind Park Seung-Hi, LEE Eun-Byul and Cho Ha-Ri. Reutter finishes the year with the third world ranking in the 1500 meter.

Reutter also raced in the 3000 meter super final event on Sunday against nine other women. Starting from the second starting position Reutter settled into fourth behind Wang Meng (China) and two women from the Korean team. After the race speeds up around 1.30, Reutter passed into third and then into second behind Park Seung-Hi… and at this point the amount of movement in the race got out of hand and pretty difficult to follow with Jessica Gregg (Canada), Reutter and Cho Ha-Ri each taking a turn in the lead. Reutter executed another mad pass outside all three Koreans around 3.40 but was shortly overcome again by the Korean team effort. It appears that Reutter might have even lost her balance a bit towards the very end, giving up first the lead and then third place, finishing in a hard-fought fourth place by .14 behind Park, Cho and Lee. Park won the overall Championship title; Reutter ranked in sixth.

For the women’s 3000 meter relay final that followed (Derrick, Dudek, Gehring, Reutter), the USA skated against Korea and Canada (China was supposed to race but did not show), in a rematch of the dramatic and highly contested Olympic relay. It was a race of redemption for South Korea, who this time took home an uncontested gold in the relay with Canada in second and the American women finishing in third place, similar to the Olympic outcome minus the disqualification drama and the Chinese team.

Whew… and that’s that for short track.

******

Purely Entertaining:

And now for a few brief moments of hilarity and randomness from last week’s men’s team webcasts:

  • When asked why Apolo Ohno was not on the team for Worlds: “Because he’s in Beruit.” Here is a hunch: they are really sick of people asking about Ohno. At one point, when asked the question, “Where is Apolo,” Simon Cho replied, “Hey what’s that supposed to mean? That’s an insult!”
  • There was a discussion on Snuggies. Malone has purchased them as gifts. I almost purchased my dog one once… and then I came to.
  • We were also treated to a discussion on how McDonalds is different in every country. Based on the team’s knowledge of various incarnations of fast food burgers, everyone’s greatest question has been answered: Olympians really do eat McDonalds!
  • Cho is afraid of birds: “Everyone hates birds, right?” Meanwhile, a) that is not true, b) he and frequent Words to Bumble guest star Kathleen have an irrational fear in common, and c) Malone was like, ‘Really? I have a parakeet.’
  • Kyle Carr’s luggage got lost by Air France and so his skates were in limbo for most of the trip. Instead of getting to skate while the rest of the team had practice, he just had to jog around the track.
  • There were questions about rolling toilet paper over or under. Over. Obviously the answer is over. How do I come to this? Because that is how hotels to it to make life fancy. The end.
  • Cho says, “Don’t waste your money on the iPad,” good advice really.
  • Too many people are obsessed with the sexuality of spandex-wearing guys, and the guys appear to pretty tired of it all, really. Even though some people talk about bubble baths, their preferred shampoos and a love of cupcakes; however, those are all really important things in my mind.
  • Most of these people fondly remember Pokemon and Digimon from their childhoods. Malone remembers Teddy Ruxpin, and I like that about him because I always wanted one of those and my mother would never get me one and, and…

Ahem. I think that’s it.

So short track recaps: Done. Back to normal programming… I think.


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Money Poor with Kathleen

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One of these days, Kathleen‘s blog will get up and running. Until then, it is my responsibility to bring these little nuggets of joy into your life.

Imagine that you are in the New York City subway heading to the Upper West Side on the delightful 1 train. And upon my feet, what do you see?

A roll of Whole Foods 365 brand paper towels just lying there– fully wrapped, fully abandoned.

If you are Kathleen you turn to me with a raised eyebrow and ask, “Is it too gross to take these? Is it too sad?”

I reply, “Actually, if you hadn’t said something, I probably would have.”

When you are money poor you learn that beggars can’t be choosers.

Sure, it was a little embarrassing. Sure, I contemplated how to look as though I wasn’t really with her– that I had no connection to this crazy woman picking household goods off the floor of a subway station in midtown.

Afterwards we crammed onto the uptown 1, paper towels stowed under Kathleen’s arm. We decided that since every penny saved is an extra penny towards our new life dream of learning how to speed skate (based on Kathleen’s family being in Ballston Spa & our strong thighs, plus a little residual Olympic fever) that we had made the right choice. As I get out the one liner that was much better in person, a woman standing nearby turned to us with a questioning face, turned away and then turned back to us and said, “Wait what?”

So then we had to explain the paper towels, explain my love of short track, how I am job hunting, our speed skating pact (glad I’m publicizing that here… ) et cetera, et cetera. Then I ended up noting that I would probably write about it in my blog and let me tell you, I have never been sorrier that I have yet to have personal business cards made up. I bet I could have had one more reader after that exchange.

Oh sigh.

At any rate: Kathleen was really happy about the paper towels, a New York subway experience of bizarreté was had and we got a few great pictures too. Plus, our destination was her new apartment sans furniture or napkins for the celebratory pizza and beer.

So you see, Kathleen knew what she was doing when she sacrificed her dignity and took paper towels out of the subway.

And this is just how life is when you are a poor twenty-something trying to live the life in Manhattan. Some people go on food stamps, some people sell their eggs, others walk to and from work and when a monsoon forces them to indulge in a metro card payment they pillage the offerings of subway stations.

It happens.

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Apolo Ohno & Meredith Viera

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Just do us all a favor and watch this. It’s pretty hilarious and reminds me why I should always remember that Today during the Olympics is something that needs to be watched. Hopefully I will remember that in the future.

It is a so much better than that time they tangoed.

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US Success on Short Track Friday

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Over all it was a great night for American speed skating, resulting in two medal winning races on the short track. Good stuff.

Katherine Reutter had an awesome race night in the 1,000 meter, executing an awesome passes along the way. She won her quarterfinal ahead  second qualifier of Cho Hae-Ri of South Korea. Reutter went on to win her semifinal in 1:30.568 just ahead of Wang Meng of China who crossed the line at 1:30.573.

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Reutter began the A Final from the third starting position and fought the whole way to finish with a silver, the first individual women’s medal in short track in sixteen years. Reutter hung out in third for a while before slipping back into fourth and finally power-housing through to the silver and heroically holding Park back the last laps. Pre-tty fantastic. Wang Meng got the gold and bronze went to Park Seung-Hi of South Korea. Reutter has been considered a major player on the women’s team for this her first Olympics and it looks like that Colbert-branded thigh can go home happy.

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Second medal moment of the night belonged to the men’s 5,000 meter relay team consisting of Apolo Ohno, J.R. Celski, Jordan Malone & Travis Jayner. Ohno was the only remaining team member of the 2006 Torino bronze medalists.

If you missed the earlier relay events you missed out on some spectacular comments comparing the required movements to a ballet of sorts… last night all we got was, “it looks chaotic, but there is an amazing synchronicity to what these skaters do.” This is the race where skaters alternate laps and push each other in and out of play, passing on their speed to their teammates while tagging them in. It’s basically the most exciting and hectic event in short track.

The US team was easily in the lead pack early on, keeping up with Canada, China and South Korea and leaving the French team well behind. Then things got a little hairy with the American team settled into fourth and struggling to keep up with the pack. Very stressful.

In a pre-race sound bite Ohno said that for short track Friday “I like to use the expression ‘Any given Sunday, anything can happen.'” The race was perfect entertainment from the get-go.  It was also incredibly close– unknowably close until the replay. I certainly had to wait to be sure of what I had just seen. Ohno took the last laps for the team who had remained in fourth position throughout the race and somehow–out of nowhere– rocketed into third, almost overtaking South Korea for second: “What Apolo can do– he’s the best in the world in this situation!” You get the feeling listening to the commentators that there is no joy in the world like being in the arena when Apolo Ohno is racing. I’m a little/a lot jealous of them.

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That’s number eight kids. As over used as the word ‘epic’ is… it was epic. And that is why no one on this earth could tempt me to not watch the Olympics last night. Not a one.

As a postscript, Canada took the gold so good for them on home ice. I’m still upset about the 500 meter though, and I blame them. Sorry.

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The 500m: Apolo Ohno & Ultimate Mayhem on the Short Track

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In case you have a life and missed it… SPOILER ALERT, because I firmly believe in OnDemand, DVR and NBColympics.com… go watch the men’s 5oo meter short track finals and then come back. Maybe take a Valium. Don’t be caught with liquids near anything you don’t want doused. This is good advice.

The phrase most frequently associated with the sport appears to be, “That’s short track,” accompanied with an exasperated shrug. Crazy shit goes down and that’s just the way it is. I urge you to recall the Celski disqualification during the 1000m and the surprise bronze for the women’s relay borne of a South Korean blade click.

Last night we confronted what Chris Collinsworth described as “the craziest event within this crazy sport,” on what is touted as the best night of short track at the Olympics– a Friday night with the “part race, part demolition derby,” (Oh Bob Costas) men’s 500 meter, the women’s 1000 meter and the final epic event, the women’s 3000 men’s 5,000 meter relay.

In an advertisement aired by NBC on Saturday afternoon for the Kentucky Derby, Ohno likened his sport to the esteemed horse race… which was confusing and involved lots of snorting beasts battling it out. Previously he had compared the 500 to a bunch of guys ripping around a tiny track on motorcycles at top speed and then doing a multitude of hairpin u-turns.

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NBC really likes to encourage metaphoric language. I don’t know if you’ve noticed.

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The quarterfinal brought the world another amazing Apolo Ohno moment that was just about too awesome and too good to be true. There was a spill on the track in which two competitors wiped out right in Ohno’s path (Tyson Heung, Germany & Thibault Fauconnet, France). So what did he do? Oh yeah, he just jumped over the carnage. Just. jumped. over. them. No big deal. Like that cliff running bit from two weeks ago.

Talk about crazy. Scott Hamilton called Evgeny Plushenko ‘cat-like’ during men’s figure skating. Molly summed Ohno’s move up thusly, “He’s a lion.”

Digression: The world has been wondering all week why Ohno yawns before a race. Is he bored? Is he tired? What is going on? So NBC asked him and aside from explaining that it relaxes him before a race he grinned and said, “Turn on the Discovery Channel. Lions do it– so, I wanna be a lion.”

Love those spotlight on Apolo NBC moments and the magical things he says.

Moving on.

In the semifinal Ohno qualified first ahead of François-Louis Tremblay of Canada, beating out two South Koreans, Kwak Yoon-Gy and Lee Ho-Suk, placing into the A Final. It was a delight. Things were looking good.

And now I bring you final of mayhem/ doom. The line up: 1) Charles Hamelin (Canada), 2) Sung Si-Bak (South Korea), 3) Apolo Ohno (US), 4) François-Louis Tremblay (Canada).

Ohno fell back into fourth position early on which did not bode well since there barely is an “early on” in a race as brief as the 500 meter sprint. But there’s always a solid chance when you are watching Ohno race that he will somehow, amazingly pull it together at the clutch. As the seconds clocked by things took a desperate turn. There was a lot of shouting. Neighbors where disturbed.

And then just before the finish it looked like Ohno was going to make a move into third for the bronze. As happens with shocking frequency in short track there was minor contact, a hand to Tremblay’s hip by Apolo (again let’s just re-read that Celski incident recap). Shortly after this seemingly quotidian contact Tremblay slips and spins out. Meanwhile, up ahead it looks like Hamelin has a hand on Sung’s hip momentarily, Sung trips of his own accord, grabs at Hamelin’s skate and spins out. Once again Ohno is navigating through the carnage, Hamelin is sliding all over the place and ends of going backwards for the last bit, Ohno manages to stay fully on his feet and crosses the line for silver…

You. would. think.

I can’t find  embeddable video at the moment, so here’s the stingy exclusive NBC link. I will keep looking.

The moment Tremblay went down the threat of disqualification was thick in the air and maybe the saddest thing ever is watching footage of the end of the race and how elated Ohno is that he hung on and got through… and then having to realize that he has been disqualified. And again we must do a tally for the day: Rough City, Population- Apolo Anton Ohno.

If only Tremblay had not felt the need to wipe out. If if was a skiff…

After the race Collinsworth caught up with Ohno: “I think that was definitely three of the fastest guys off the line that I’ve ever skated against… There wasn’t any space to move up, just kind of waiting, waiting, waiting… I don’t know why they called me– I was in fourth the whole time… but no regrets.”

Ohno countered the contact DQ saying that he was “just protecting myself” from running into Tremblay by having his hand up, a typical move in short track. His frustration with the call was not a surprise, but he was pretty chill in staking his position: “…you know, in short track everything is subjective, so I just have to skate faster [in the relay].”

Done and Done.

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I Almost Forgot: Apolo Ohno & the 500m Heats

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This probably isn’t news, but I feel bound to make a note even a full 24 hour lag behind. My humblest apologies, I got very sidetracked by the speedy ladies today and forgot the dudes. Yeah I said ‘dudes,’ what’re you gonna do about it?

Ohno pretty obviously owned his heat, taking the first of two qualifying positions. As an FYI for people who have not been paying attention, he is defending his Torino gold medal in the event. Surprisingly the event is not really considered one of his best because of its brevity and his tendency to lag towards the back at the start. So that’s that.

Two other Americans were in the event: Jordan Malone failed to advance; however, Simon Cho took the second qualifying position in his heat, just behind South Korean Lee Ho-Suk.

Ok we’re all caught up on short track. Good deal. 500m & 5000m relay finals tomorrow for the dudes, 1000m finals for the ladies. Be there. Done deal.

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