TURIN, Italy - It was a look of elation, almost astonishment.
Thrill and spill short track is never this easy. Apolo Anton Ohno knows that better than most.
The men’s 500 final was supposed to be roller derby on ice, a skate-digging, elbow-flying, skater-disqualifying 42 seconds of mayhem on blades.
That’s what short track racing is all about.
Finish second and you can still win, as Ohno did four years ago. Crawl across the finish line and you might get a silver, just as he did in another race in Salt Lake City.
Saturday evening was merely a stroll to gold. It was so easy that when Ohno crossed the finish line he opened his mouth wide, lifted his arms over his head and exalted in a moment so perfect he seemed to wonder how it ever could have been.
In a sport that loves disqualifications, you half expected the judges to toss out the entire group for being too polite.
Figure skaters were sprawling all over the place on the same ice two nights earlier. No one laid a hand on anyone else, much less the ice, in this final.
It was the race Ohno had to dream about as he spent the years since Salt Lake living in a dorm room and training for a sport so unpredictable that even being the best skater doesn’t guarantee you’ll get on the medals podium.
And it only got better.
He finished with two medals for the evening, three in the Olympics, after he anchored the U.S. team to a third-place finish in the team 5,000. He passed an Italian on the next-to-last lap to do that, but that was just a bonus after the 500 meters.
It was there that Ohno got a gift to get into the final, got the inside position on the start draw that every skater wants, and then got a bit of a lean in front of the other four racers just as the gun sounded.
“For me it was the perfect race,” he said.
Ohno probably deserved an Olympics free of controversy and spills after his first games in Salt Lake City. The soul-patched one was a media darling there, but also a controversial winner in the 1,500 when the South Korean who finished first was disqualified.
If that gold medal was a bit tarnished, this one was squeaky clean.
“I was happy before this medal,” he said. “But to be able to come here and finish it like this is pretty spectacular.”
Ohno may look something like a rebel with the slice of hair that runs from his lower lip down his chin, but he’s a team player and more all-American than the kid next door.