SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Viktor Ahn crowned himself king of short track Friday night, winning two golds to tie retired star Apolo Anton Ohno for the most career Olympic medals in the rough and tumble skating discipline with eight.
Ahn led Russia to victory in the 5,000-meter relay, taking the lead for good by passing American J.R. Celski with eight laps to go. Earlier in the evening, Ahn won the 500.
“He just shows he is the best guy in the world, definitely here,” Ohno said. “He’s got eight medals, six gold. Perhaps the best ever to put short track speed skates on. Yeah, I would say so.”
The South Korean-born skater who switched nationalities in 2011 finished the Sochi Games with a medal in all four of his events.
He applauded as he crossed the finish line.
The mostly Russian crowd waved flags and cheered their adopted red-headed star, chanting his first name repeatedly. Ahn changed his name and became a Russian citizen, after winning his first four Olympic medals skating at the 2006 Turin Games as Ahn Hyun-soo for South Korea.
The relay got off to a typically chaotic start with China and the Netherlands crashing not even halfway through the opening lap. It became a two-nation race between Russia and the U.S. for most of the 45 laps.
Chris Creveling briefly put the U.S. in front with 15 laps left, overtaking Vladimir Grigorev. But Ahn rallied teammates Grigorev, Semen Elistratov and Ruslan Zakharov to victory.
Eddy Alvarez, Celski, Creveling and Jordan Malone took silver for the first U.S. medal in speedskating at the Sochi Games. The U.S. speedskaters were shut out in 12 long track events, and had failed to get on the podium in the first seven short track races.
The medal helped the Americans avoid a shutout for the first time since 1998 in Nagano.
The Chinese team of Chen Dequan, Han Tianyu, Shi Jingnan and Wu Dajing overcame the early trouble to take bronze.
Earlier, Ahn rallied to win the 500, overtaking Wu on the last lap after Liang Wenhao of China crashed out. It was the only Olympic race Ahn had never captured, and he became the first skater to win all four individual events at an Olympics in his career.
“It was Ahn’s clinic on how to short track speedskate tonight. He wrote a textbook,” Ohno said of Ahn’s 500 race.
Ahn sustained a major knee injury that prevented him from competing four years ago in Vancouver, and soon after he made Russia his adopted country. Ahn earned bronze in the 1,500, giving Russia its first medal in the sport on the opening day of competition in Sochi. He then won the 1,000.
Ohno, now retired and working as a TV commentator at the games, had been confident that Ahn would tie his record set from 2002-2010.
Wu earned silver and Charle Cournoyer of Canada took bronze in the men’s sprint.
In the women’s 1,000, Park Seung-hi of South Korea won her third medal of the games.
Park took over the lead for good from American Jessica Smith early in the race. Park earned her other gold medal in the women’s 3,000 relay, and took bronze in the 500.
Fan Kexin of China earned silver, and Shim Suk-hee of South Korea earned bronze in the crash-free final. Shim also won her third medal, having taken silver in the 1,500 and joining Park on the victorious relay.
Smith, of Melvindale, Mich., finished last.
Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands finished third in her 1,000-meter semifinal heat, ending her bid to become the first speed skater to win medals in both short and long track.
Ter Mors won the B final competing in short track about two hours after helping the Netherlands set an Olympic record in long track team pursuit. She had already won gold in the 1,500 on the big oval.