VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trailing the South Koreans and a pair of Canadian brothers, Apolo Anton Ohno had to rally on the last lap to make history.

With the gold and silver out of reach, Ohno scooted furiously past brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin to earn a bronze in the short-track 1,000-meter final Saturday night, making him the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian.

Lee Jung-su of South Korea won and teammate Lee Ho-suk earned the silver.

Ohno’s seventh career medal broke a tie with long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair. He now has two gold, two silver and three bronze medals in his three Olympic appearances. He earned a silver in the 1,500 last weekend.

Ohno’s medals are the most of any short-track skater.

He appeared relieved as he crossed the finish line, having skated near the back of the pack early in the nine-lap race. Ohno briefly moved up to second, then dropped to last with three laps to go, forcing his rally near the end.

Ohno grabbed an American flag and skated around, then patted his long-time South Korean rivals on their shoulders.

He has two more events in Vancouver to add to his medal cache.

 

OHNO MAY be feted at home for his Olympic feats, but he’s better known in South Korea as the ”king of fouls.” and may be the athlete South Koreans most hate.

One company once sold toilet paper emblazoned with Ohno’s face: Ohno joyfully winning the gold, Ohno kissing his medal, Ohno laughing. One video game features an Ohno character you can shoot in the head, and to call something ”Ohnolike” is to deride it as a dirty trick.

The bad blood goes back eight years to the Salt Lake City Olympics, where South Koreans believe Ohno stole the gold from Kim Dong-sung, who finished first in the 1,500-meter race but was disqualified for blocking. Ohno, then a teenager competing in his first Olympics, threw up his arms as he tried to pass Kim, as though to cry foul.

As Ohno stepped up to claim his gold, his joy only sealed South Koreans’ disgust for an athlete lambasted as ungracious and unsportsmanlike. Thousands of angry anti-Ohno e-mails shut down the U.S. Olympic Committee server for nine hours.

Hatred of Ohno is said to have fueled anti-American sentiment back then, and it doesn’t help that his father, Yuki, was born in Japan, the nation that colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945. South Koreans try to trounce Japan as often in sports, and Ohno is not exempt.

The animosity toward Ohno grew so heated that the entire American short-track team withdrew from a World Cup event in South Korea in 2003, citing death threats against Ohno. In 2005, he traveled in South Korea, reportedly under guard.

Last year, with tensions appearing to simmer down, Ohno chose to make the trip for a World Cup event and was roundly booed by the crowd in the coastal city of Gangneung. And when a South Korean won gold and Ohno was disqualified, the audience roared and cheered with approval.

Ohno, older and wiser, shrugged off the booing. And he managed to earn the crowd’s grudging respect with a clean skate later in the competition, drawing applause for an undisputed gold medal finish.

South Koreans are possessive and prickly about short-track speedskating, until now the country’s best Winter Olympics event. The Asian nation of 49 million routinely churns out Olympic medalists in the short track, and two coaches on the U.S. short-track speedskating team were born and raised in South Korea.

At these games, the South Koreans have emerged as a surprise force not only on the short track but also on the long track. South Korea has five medals, one of them a gold to Ohno’s silver.

The traditional rivalry between Ohno and the South Koreans flared up again in that race, the 1,500 meters. Three South Koreans were in the lead as they rounded the last turn, but two crashed out, allowing Ohno to slip across the finish line in second.

Incensed gold medalist Lee Jung-su criticized Ohno as ”too aggressive” after the race.

”Ohno didn’t deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me,” he told Yonhap.