VANCOUVER, British Columbia. — Apolo Ohno needs to win just one more medal to become the most decorated United States Winter Olympian in history.
And Wednesday night, in workmanlike fashion befitting his status as the elder statesman of the sport, he gave himself two more chances to get it done.
The Federal Way, Wash., native highlighted a busy night of short-track skating at the Pacific Coliseum by qualifying for the quarterfinals of the men's 1,000 meters, then leading the U.S. into the finals of the 5,000 relay.
The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the 1,000 will be Saturday. The 5,000 relay is on Feb. 26, the last event of the short track program, and likely the last Olympic race of Ohno's career.
Ohno has six Olympic medals, tied with Bonnie Blair for the most of any American Winter Olympian Ohno insists he's not dwelling on the record, just winning a little bit more in the sport he has owned for most of a decade.
"I would love to medal again, there's no question," he said. "It's nice that I have six medals from three Olympics in a sport that it's kind of crazy to get one medal. But I try not to think about that. I'm here because I love what I'm doing and I'm still talented enough."
He'll be joined in both races by Federal Way native J.R. Celski, who also qualified in the 1,000 and helped the U.S. move on in the 5,000 relay.
Both will also race in the 500 beginning next Wednesday.
Both faced little trouble qualifying for the final.
Ohno, in typical style, held back early in his 1,000 heat before making his run. With three laps to go he moved into the lead and stayed there. Ohno said he wasn't in peak physical shape, in part because these were just qualifying races. "In my mind, if you feel good today, it's a little too early," he said. "The real competition is on Saturday."
Celski waited longer, not moving into second until the last turn of the last lap. He finished with the third-fastest time of the day, 1:25.113.
The U.S. relay team also easily qualified for the final after Italy and France collided nine laps into the 45-lap heat. (Italy was disqualified and France allowed to advance to what will now be a five-team final). The U.S. settled for a safe second in its heat behind Korea.
While talking with reporters afterward, Ohno seemed more excited discussing other Americans who had won gold medals earlier in the day, such as speed skater Shani Davis and skier Lindsey Vonn.
Then he playfully jabbed at the host country's public quest to "Own the Podium" during these Olympic Games.
"Their Operation Gold or whatever they are calling it, Own the Podium or something," Ohno said. "They can own the podium. We just want to borrow it for the month of February. We'll give it back."
In other short-track action Wednesday night, Meng Wang of China won the gold in the women's 500, her second straight Olympic victory in that event.