Ahn Hyun Soo

▪ 2007

      In February 2006 South Korean short-track speed skater Ahn Hyun Soo won four medals during the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy—the most of any male competitor. His performances brought euphoric satisfaction to his homeland, where short track reigned as the number one sport, and left him with the highest medal total posted by a Korean athlete in a single Olympics.

      Ahn captured his first gold in the men's 1,500 m and then set an Olympic record en route to his second in the 1,000 m. He took a bronze medal in the men's 500 m. In the final event, the 5,000-m relay, he followed his usual strategy by holding off until the final laps. He then passed Canada, the defending Olympic champion, on the final lap and sprinted for the finish from an outside passing lane to give South Korea its sixth short-track gold medal and another Olympic record time. As the competition played out, Ahn held off the challenge of his biggest rival, American Apolo Anton Ohno, who won the 500 m but never seriously challenged Ahn in any other event. Ahn's dominance was a vindication of his losses at the 2002 Salt Lake City (Utah) Winter Olympics, where Ohno and Ahn had been among the favourites in the 1,000-m event. In the final, however, China's Li Jiajun caused a pileup that knocked out everyone except Australian Steven Bradbury (then skating in last place), who won the race by default. Ohno got up and lunged across the finish line to earn the silver medal, while Ahn finished fourth. Ahn was later disqualified in the 1,500-m semifinal and left Salt Lake City without a medal.

      Ahn was born in Seoul on Nov. 23, 1985, and started short-track skating at the age of eight. The first time that he watched short track on television, he saw countryman Chae Ji Hoon capture a gold and a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Nor., and he vowed to follow his hero into the sport. Ahn, at 1.64 m (5 ft 4 in) and 54 kg (120 lb), was perfectly built for the fast speeds and tight corners of short track. In 2002 he won the overall world junior championships and finished second at the senior world championships. In the 2003 season, after his disappointing performance in Salt Lake City, Ahn recovered his momentum, setting world records at 1,500 m and 3,000 m and capturing the first of four consecutive world overall titles.

      When not in competition, Ahn trained and attended school at the Korean National Sports University in Seoul. He planned to study English in Australia or Canada when he retired from short track, but his success rate on the ice could delay that eventuality.

Ron Reid

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▪ South Korean skater
born Nov. 23, 1985, Seoul, S.Kor.

      South Korean short-track speed skater, who was the top male medal winner at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

      Ahn started short-track skating at age eight, inspired by countryman Chae Ji Hoon, who captured a gold and a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Nor. At 5 feet 4 inches (1.64 metres) and 120 pounds (54 kg), Ahn was perfectly built for the fast speeds and tight corners of short track. In 2002 he won the overall world junior championships and finished second at the senior world championships. Later that year he made his Olympic debut at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, but had disappointing results. Ahn was one of the favourites in the 1,000 metres, but in the final China's Li Jiajun caused a pileup that knocked out everyone except Australian Steven Bradbury (then skating in last place), who won the race by default; Ahn finished fourth. Ahn was later disqualified in the 1,500-metre semifinal and left Salt Lake City without a medal. During the 2003 season, however, he recovered his momentum, setting world records at 1,500 metres and 3,000 metres and capturing the first of five consecutive world overall titles.

      At the 2006 Winter Games, Ahn won the 1,500 metres to capture his first gold medal and then set an Olympic record in the 1,000 metres en route to his second gold. He took a bronze medal in the 500 metres. In the final event, the 5,000-metre relay, he followed his usual strategy by holding off until the final laps. He then sprinted for the finish from an outside passing lane to give South Korea its sixth short-track gold medal and another Olympic record time. As the competition played out, Ahn held off the challenge of his biggest rival, American Apolo Anton Ohno, who won the 500 metres but never seriously challenged Ahn in any other event.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

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