Friday, March 7, 2014
By Beth Harris
The Associated Press
SOCHI, Russia — Viktor Ahn threw his arms up in celebration as he crossed the finish line first, giving Russia its first Olympic short track gold medal. Just behind him Vladimir Grigorev was celebrating, too, as Russia finished 1-2 in the men’s 1,000-meter short track Saturday, igniting a raucous home crowd.
Viktor Ahn of Russia, right, celebrates winning in a men’s 1,000-meter short track speedskating final alongside Vladimir Grigorev of Russia, who placed second, at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The Associated Press
Ahn won Olympic gold medals for South Korea in 2006. His win Saturday made him the first man to win four short track golds – and the first to win Winter Olympic gold medals for two distinctly different countries.
“I spent the whole last eight years for this medal,” Ahn said through a translator. “That’s why I cried.”
Ahn and Grigorev raced to celebrate with their coaches on the sideline as the mostly Russian crowd tooted horns and waved red, white and blue flags. It was Ahn’s sixth career medal, including two in Sochi.
“I was so touched by the loud applause,” he said.
Ahn then skated to center ice, got down on all fours and kissed the ice on the letter C in the logo of Sochi 2014. He got up and hugged Grigorev before embracing Sin Da-woon of South Korea, who had been disqualified.
“We don’t compete with each other on a personal level,” Ahn said of the South Koreans. “I just wanted to congratulate them for their performance.”
At 31 years and 191 days, Grigorev became the oldest man to win a short track medal.
Ahn delivered his adopted country’s first Olympic short track medal with a bronze in the 1,500. Born in Seoul, he previously competed for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo, winning three golds and a bronze at his first two Olympics in 2002 and 2006. A career-threatening knee injury in 2008 forced him to miss the Vancouver Games. Ahn became a Russian citizen in 2011, saying South Korea didn’t provide him the support he needed.
“I proved my decision was not wrong. That’s why today really is very, very meaningful to me,” he said. “I wanted to choose an environment that allows me to do the sport I really love. What happened in the past is not important; I forgot it.”
Ahn explained that he doesn’t want stories focused on the negative reasons he left because it wouldn’t be good for the current crop of South Korean skaters. “I already said I feel sorry for my former athletes,” he said.
Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands took the bronze, earning the first short track Olympic medal for the Dutch, who are better known as the world’s dominant long track speedskating team. Knegt got into the final after Lee Han-bin of South Korea was disqualified for impeding the Dutch skater in the semifinals.
The Russian men led most of the way in the 1,000, with Ahn and Grigorev working together to try to ensure both got on the podium. There were no crashes in the six-man final.
“Sometimes such strategy doesn’t work, so we have to be very careful,” Ahn said. “We played very well and it was a great race.”