LONDON (Reuters) - Mix a bandana, goatee and some razor-sharp blades and you get short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who can become the United States’ most decorated winter Olympian at this month’s Vancouver Games.
The 27-year-old has five medals from appearances at two Olympics, one short of speed skater Bonnie Blair’s American record. With four men’s events being contested at the Pacific Coliseum he has every chance of overtaking Blair.
“First and foremost I do my sport because I love it...but to know that I could be up there with some of the greats of Olympians is amazing,” he told NBC’s Today Show.
Ohno, who cuts a distinctive figure with his bandana often poking out of the bottom of his helmet, won three medals in Turin in 2006 (one gold, two bronze) and two at Salt Lake City in 2002 (gold and silver).
Since Turin he has added another title to his collection by winning reality television show Dancing with the Stars in 2007.
With triple Olympic champion Ahn Hyun-soo of South Korea having failed to qualify for Vancouver after an injury layoff, Ohno will fancy his chances although he faces stiff competition from another Korean, world champion Lee Ho-suk.
In the women’s events, which feature the 500 meters, 1,000 and 1,500 like the men’s but a 3,000 relay rather a 5,000, China’s Wang Meng is expected to dominate.
Since winning Olympic gold in the 500, she has been overall world champion twice and is the world-record holder in the 500 and 1,000 meters.
Wang missed the national championships in January because of a cut to her hand but local media have reported that she will recover in time for the Games.
Short track speed skating can seem chaotic and crashes are common as skaters jostle for position between the tight turns on an ice-hockey-size rink.
It is not necessarily the fastest skater who wins, as Australian Steven Bradbury found when he won gold in the 1,000 meters in 2002 having been well behind the leaders before a mass pile-up on the last corner.
He coolly passed them all as they were sprawled across the ice, with Ohno and Mathieu Turcotte scrambling to desperately hurl themselves over the line for the other medals.
Bradbury was lucky to even be in the final in the first place, having progressed through the rounds thanks to other skaters being disqualified or crashing.
Editing by Clare Fallon
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