Thursday, February 16, 2006

never ending hatred?

when the gap closed, Ohno threw up his hands to indicate he felt Kim had illegally cut him off. At the finish line, it was Kim crossing in first, Ohno second.

Before the skaters could leave the ice, though, the judges huddled to discuss whether Kim had interfered with Ohno. The crowd at the Salt Lake Ice Center, which had booed the initial result, went quiet with expectation before the announcement finally came -- Kim had been disqualified. Ohno kissed the ice; Kim threw down his country’s flag in frustration and disbelief.

A roar went up inside the arena ... and on the other side of the world.

Almost three years later, in October 2005, Ohno set foot on South Korean soil for the first time since the Salt Lake incident. He was met at Incheon International Airport by 100 policemen in riot gear, in addition to his own security detail (that included former secret service agents).

In the immediate aftermath of the Salt Lake Games, angry South Korean fans sent more than 16,000 emails to the United States Olympic Committee, crashing the USOC’s Internet server. During the following year, Ohno received death threats, and his father was harassed by South Korean journalists in his hometown of Seattle.

At a World Cup soccer game in Daegu, South Korea, striker Ahn Jung-Hwan scored a goal for the home team against the United States, then celebrated by simulating a short track skater -- a clear indication, on one of the world's largest sports stages, that the Salt Lake controversy had not been forgetten.

In November 2003, Ohno refused to compete at a World Cup event in South Korea, citing security concerns. In fact, the fear was so great that a majority of U.S. skaters voted not to go, and the entire team stayed home.

“It is unfortunate that a few people feel the need to make death threats against me,” Ohno said at the time. “Without the arrest of the criminals making these threats against me, I see no other choice but to not compete at this World Cup event.”

The pressure to overtake Ohno has fallen to one man -- 20-year-old Seoul native Ahn Hyun-Soo

“We think of Ohno as a big rival in Korea,” Ahn says. “All the Korean people want me to beat him.”

Dan Fleschner, NBC Olympic Researcher

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